Title: The Vanishing Half
Author: Brit Bennett
What I Think So Far: I’m always a little cautious when it comes to picking up a book that everyone is raving about, or that has an enormous amount of hype surrounding it – I always think to myself, will its popularity influence my thoughts? What if I don’t enjoy it as much as everyone else has? Well, unless you’ve been living under a rock, I’m sure you’ll have heard of Brit Bennett’s latest novel, The Vanishing Half – it’s practically everywhere at the moment, and it has received an incredible amount of praise. Dubiously, I eventually picked it up, and after struggling through the first several chapters, which I did find a little slow and uneventful, I really felt that this would be one of those novels that were overly hyped. Just as I was going to add it to my pile of books that didn’t pass my rule of drawing me in within the first 50 pages, the plot massively picked up – I was hooked, and couldn’t put it down.
The novel begins in the 1950s, in a small town named Mallard in America’s deep south, that has a predominately black population, though the lighter someone’s skin is, the more valuable they are seen as being. We are introduced to the Vignes twin sisters, who as children, are totally inseparable, though at sixteen, they escape the confines of their community, and run away, both from Mallard, and from each other. One sister, Desiree, returns to Mallard with her young daughter after escaping an abusive relationship. The other daughter, Stella, secretly passes for white, and has constructed a life for herself, whereby her white husband, and white daughter, know nothing of her past. What follows is a masterfully crafted novel of intersecting storylines spanning multiple generations, a thorough and totally unique interrogation of race and identity, immersive, metaphoric and utterly captivating prose that is brimming with vibrant imagery, so vivid in fact that you feel truly transported, and some of the most well-written and unforgettable characters that I have ever read.
Would I Recommend It? Bottom line, yes. I would most definitely recommend The Vanishing Half. If you love multi-generational tales, interesting family dynamics, stories about racial identity, and enjoy modern history, this novel takes you on an emotional roller coaster. If, like me, you’re struggling with the first few chapters, I’d really urge you to push through, as once the plot picks up, I promise you, you will become fully invested in the lives of the characters that Bennett has so expertly crafted; they will most definitely stay with you long after you turn the final pages. The Vanishing Half well and truly deserves the hype and praise that is has thus far received, and I wouldn’t hesitate to add Brit Bennett’s genius novel to my list of favourite books of 2020.
Words by Hollie McDevitt
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