The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
Themes: Colorism, Racism, Gender Identity, & Sisterhood
First off, I do judge books by their covers. Every now and then I’m looking for a specific title but more often than not I’m browsing a bookstore waiting for something to catch my eye.
Recently I’ve become a sucker for anything with book blobs. An obnoxious amount of the books that pop up on my feed and pique my interest have what Savannah Cordova of Spine Magazine refers to as “colorful splotches” on the cover. Don’t believe it? Google the covers for You Exist Too Much, Little Gods, and Detransition Baby.
The Vanishing Half falls in the book blob cover category So when I spied those colorful blobs on the discount shelf of my local bookstore I was pumped.
The Vanishing Half is a story that follows mothers and daughters as each generation faces their respective demons, choosing fight or flight.
Identical twin sisters Desiree and Stella are afforded light skin privilege in their colorist hometown Mallard but learn early that the perks afforded to them in the black community can’t protect them from the heavy-handed racism of the south.
In an attempt to leave behind the smothering oppression of their small town they end up losing themselves and each other. Each decision takes them further from where they started and not close enough to where they’d like to be.
Things I Liked
Bennett seamlessly slipped colorism, domestic violence, gender identity, classism, and sexuality into the story with fluid writing. Each topic felt organic and not like she was trying to force too many perspectives.
As a current LA resident, it’s always cool to read other peoples’ take, real or fiction, on Los Angeles. Jude is hustling by night, serving the rich and privileged while scraping by and attending school, chasing her dreams during the day.
There is something dramatic but on point whenever folks describe the juxtaposition of obnoxious wealth and lack that coexist in the city of Angels. Bennett captures it perfectly as characters flit from celebrity homes in Malibu to tucked-away suburbs and homelessness in West Hollywood.
I appreciated that the story didn’t have a happily ever after. It would’ve cheapened the complexity of everything that occurred. It was sad but realistic that the characters were forced to live with the finality of their actions.
Would I Recommend It?
Yes! I’ve become wary of books that live on my social media feed afraid they won’t live up to the hype. The Vanishing Half was sad and quiet, poignant and frustrating.
There were a few times I held my breath and I stayed up later than I should’ve to see how it ended. Overall I enjoyed this read.
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