She hadn’t realized how long it takes to become somebody else, or how lonely it can be living in a world not meant for you.
― Brit Bennett, The Vanishing Half
Most of us experience a time in our lives when we feel like we don’t belong, that we’re impostors in our own reality. Author Brit Bennett vividly portrays those feelings in her brilliant new novel, The Vanishing Half. It’s about twin sisters, inseparable as children, who choose to live in two very different worlds, one black and one white.
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.
Bennett seamlessly weaves together multiple strands of this family, from the Deep South to California and New York, from the 1950s to the 1990s. Although there is a strong racial component to the book, it is not the singular focus. It is ultimately about differences and labels. The characters are well-honed and well-developed, all individuals with whom we can identify in some small measure. Stella, a well-educated, uptight suburban housewife. Desiree, a loyal, street-smart waitress, Jude, who is so dark her own people think she is too black; Kennedy, a rebellious, overindulged teen who is a disappointment to her parents, and the men and women who intersect their lives.
The Vanishing Half is powerful, poignant, stunning, thought-provoking, intricate. It’s not an easy read, but it is a beautiful one.
If you read it, let me know what you think. Happy reading!