I gulped The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett doing little else but read till I was finished the novel. My daughter-in-law told me about the book which is set between 1968 and 1988. It was one of the recommendations on President Barack Obama’s reading list for 2020. It is a marvelously spun story. A page-turner for sure!
We follow two light-skinned twin African American sisters who as young children watch their Black father lynched for a crime he didn’t commit. At age 16 they move to New Orleans leaving their mother and the small southern town of Mallard where they have grown up. In New Orleans the sisters part ways.
Stella, one of the twins, discovers she can pass for white and decides to chart her course through life as a white woman. She marries her white boss but never tells him about her African American family. Stella literally disappears to begin her new life as a white woman. She ends up living in Los Angeles in the lap of luxury due to her husband’s family wealth and professional success.
Her sister Desiree finds a career as a fingerprint reader for the FBI in Washington DC and marries an abusive African American lawyer whose skin is much darker than her own. The two sisters lead lives that couldn’t be more different. Each sister has a daughter and it is through these cousins Jude, a medical student, and Kennedy, an aspiring actress that the sisters’ lives eventually intersect again.
The Vanishing Half raised lots of questions for me. How do we know who we really are or do we ever? How big a role do we have in constructing the people we become? How much of who we become is shaped by forces beyond our control? Can we ever truly leave our family of origin behind? How much do we allow ourselves to be shaped by the way others see us? Are there people who will continue to love us even when we reveal our true selves to them? How much does our physical appearance influence who we truly think we are? How do the choices we make influence our children and impact who they become?
The Vanishing Half is a page-turner and it makes you think.
Other recent book posts……..