The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, 2020
Twin sisters Stella and Desiree
Their mother Adele
Desiree’s daughter Jude
Stella’s daughter Kennedy
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The Plot (from Goodreads):
The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?
Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.
A lot has already been said about this book, and I don’t want to just repeat reviews that are already out there. This book was part of the list of books I meant to read in 2020 but didn’t get around to, and I’m so glad I finally read it! I’ll just give some quick thoughts instead of a full review:
I really enjoy generational stories where we get to see the world from multiple different perspectives, and I think this worked really well in this book with regards to racism through three decades. I found the look at racism as well as discrimination within the same race to be very educational. The writing and character development in this novel was wonderfully done.
I tend to like plot-driven novels more than character-driven ones, and there just wasn’t much plot here. That’s just my own taste, though!
Overall, this book was thought-provoking and emotional. I can imagine that great book club discussions would come from reading this novel. It’s easy to see why this was the 2020 Book of the Year!