The Vanishing Half

Original Title:The Vanishing Half
Published Date:2nd Jun 2020
Publisher:Riverhead Books
Edition Language:English
Format:Hardcover
Number of Pages:343 Pages
Rating :
About Brit Bennett
Born and raised in Southern California, Brit Bennett graduated from Stanford University and later earned her MFA in fiction at the University of Michigan, where she won a Hopwood Award in Graduate Short Fiction as well as the 2014 Hurston/Wright Award for College Writers. Her work is featured in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Paris Review, and Jezebel.The Mothers is her first novel.

The Vanishing Half Overview

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. Ten 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?

The Vanishing Half Reviews

  • August 2020 F.A.B. Bookclub Pick. # I.❤️. F.A.B.I was excited that this was our bookclub pick for this month. 🤗 I’ve read so many fabulous reviews about the important messages this book has to offer. It tells a story of a set of twins, who runaway at 16. They take two different paths in life. Not giving much away- it was a great read. 👍I’d say I enjoyed the first half of the book more than the second half. The messages are definitely good: Family is family, acceptance of who you are is important, even more so- acceptance of others is imperative. ❤️
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  • This book was so beautiful. I love stories that follow sisters, and after loving The Mothers I knew I had to check this book out. Brit Bennett has such a beautiful way with words, and I love that this book covers sooo many different important topics. The family dynamic in this book is so strong, and I was completely fascinated by Stella and Desiree's story and how they were still so connected even after being apart for years. They were brought up in a small town where every Black resident is so light-skinned that they can pass as white. Years later, and Stella is living a very different life, married to a white man and passing as white at her job, while Desiree is married to a Black man who is abusive and she soon finds herself back in the small town she grew up in. This book touches on issues like the lightness of your skin and the unconscious biases that exists within the Black community. But this book is not only about race and identity, there are so many amazing story lines happening in this book. The story lines that touched my heart the most involved Alzheimer's, and a trans character. I wasn't expecting this book to be so complex, and thought provoking. I love books like this that are simultaneously very educational with an important message throughout it, but also so fascinating and just a damn good story. The only reason this didn't get a five star from me is because I felt like sometimes the pacing was a little slow and I was waiting for things to pick up, and because I would've liked some of the characters to be a bit more fleshed out. Overall I really enjoyed this one, it kind of reminded me of Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner because of the way we follow two sisters over many decades of time. This is a timeless story that will stay in my mind for a long time. I'm not sure if I enjoyed this one or The Mothers more, they are both great in their own unique ways.
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  • I am feeling a lot of feelings right now, and I don’t know how to voice any of them. I have literal shivers in my body. Wow. Literally speechless. WOW. This book is something else; so flawless written and so breathtaking? I was so invested in everything every single character experienced; I found myself being afraid, sad, scared, happy, relieved?!?! So many things are happening. Wow. Just wow.
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  • Went to find myself, she wrote. I’m safe. Don’t worry about me. The language bothered Stella most of all. You didn’t just find a self out there waiting—you had to make one. You had to create who you wanted to be. Brit Bennett has created something so beautiful and messy in this novel. We follow twin sisters, Desiree and Stella, from their small town of Mallard, Louisiana. It's a town of light-skinned black people, where lightness is revered and darkness is vilified. As they grow up and grow apart, the sisters take different paths—one marrying a dark-skinned man, the other marrying a white man and spending the remainder of her life passing as a white woman.The repercussions of their decisions will reverberate into the generations following them, particularly their respective daughters, Jude and Kennedy.What I loved so much about this story was how vivid the characters were. I'll admit the first few chapters were a bit slow-going, but once you get accustomed to the cast of characters and see the various perspectives, you won't want to put this book down. You will have to keep reading to learn more about why characters make certain decisions, and the answers aren't always, if ever, clear-cut. People lived in bodies that were largely unknowable. Some things you could never learn about yourself—some things nobody could learn about you until after you died. I debated giving this book 4.5 or 5 stars, but ultimately my enjoyment of this reading experience mixed with how powerfully told this story is bumped it up to a 5 star read for me. Needless to say, I'd highly recommend this book.
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  • Although the first 1/3 of the book was slow, once we start to see how two generations diverge and they connect later on, I became invested in each person's individual journeys as they grappled with race, loneliness, colorism, abuse, motherhood, and a sense of identity. I enjoyed reading about these women and also adored the male side characters (Reese makes me so soft!) It’s a poignant and lovely story that takes you through several lifetimes with empathy and hope.
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  • Soooo...first I gave this book 4.5 stars. I have no idea where to even begin with my review. The Vanishing Half is such a complex and timely novel. Colorism and being "white passing" has been and still remains a hot topic of discussion in the Black community. Brit Bennett brings both of these conversations to the forefront in a interesting way. The novel focuses on twins, Desiree and Stella, who grow up in a small town where they are forced to quit school at the age of 16 to help provide an income for their family. Unable to take the burden placed on them by their mother, the girls decide to leave for New Orleans. It's there that each decides to take a new path with their life. Desiree ends up marrying a dark skin man and having a daughter, while Stella decides to pass as white and marry a white man. The psychology behind the assumptions and stereotypes placed on both narratives is rather intriguing. What I found most unique was the internalized hatred and racism that Black characters had for other Black characters based on how dark their skin was. Dark skin Black individuals are characterized as lazy and problematic while those that were lighter are treated with higher regard. In real life, a lot of those assumptions, thoughts, and feelings still linger. It was particularly interesting to see the advantages that Stella received once she was able to build her life around the lie that she was white. As much as it hurt me to see how much she hated her own blackness, I couldn't help but wonder how stressful and painful it was for her to pretend to be White and give up everything and everyone she loved. The amount of work it even took for Stella to maintain this lie throughout the novel made me exhausted. In comparison, Desiree lived a much simpler life; however, her daughter struggled with her identity as a child, teen, and adult because she was of a darker complexion. She had insecurities not only about the way she look, but also her self-worth. There were quite a few times where she continuously questions whether she is worthy of love. The characterization and addition of Jude (Desiree's daughter) and Kennedy (Stella's daughter) made the novel even more interesting. Their comparison of their lives made me wonder if Bennett was attempting to say that owning one's Blackness isn't as unfortunate as some would like to paint it to be. I'm usually weary of one books attempt to address so many different perspectives over a large expanse of time, but of course Bennett was able to beautifully weave in each story without losing my attention or interest. The amount of topics that she was able to address in such a short period of time just sang to my soul. I've read her first book The Mothers, but now I know I need to pick it up again and buy a physical copy of this one. I would say that everyone needs to read this book. It is such an important insight to such an important series of topics and Bennett, as always, handles each with such care. This is definitely going down as one of my favorite books of 2020. I did take off half a star because the ending wasn't what I was expecting or what I necessarily wanted. Other than that, this book is phenomenal!
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  • 3.5 stars. I enjoy Bennett as a writer, but I felt like this book didn't come all the way together. I wanted it to either be a more focused book with half the plot or to really go big and have more about all the characters. At first it feels like this book is going to be entirely about colorism and the strange town of Mallard, Louisiana where light-skinned Black people have effectively segregated themselves. The story begins here, with the story of twins Stella and Desiree, who grow up and then escape the town. Desiree returns after leaving her abusive husband with her dark-skinned daughter Jude. And at this point I thought this may be the real focus of the book. But then we seem to jump so quickly through time, which threw me somewhat off kilter. Desiree doesn't want to stay, but she does. And it is hard to understand why she stays knowing how unwelcome the town is for her daughter, but we gloss over it and start jumping ahead to when Jude finally leaves, moving into the other part of the story, set mostly in Southern California where Jude goes to college and then encounters long-lost Stella, who has cut off communication with her family and now passes for white.Then we have another section of the story, filling out those years of Stella's life, and this was much of the best of the book. Stella, always so afraid of being found out, develops a strange and complicated friendship with a Black family that moves in across the street in their wealthy subdivision. We get to see why Stella passes but all the ways in which it has complicated her life and her own identity. But then we push forward again, leaving just as a plot is really diving into what's interesting. The sections between cousins-but-also-strangers Kennedy and Jude are not as interesting as I wanted them to be, and didn't really dive very far into how different these women's lives are, race matters somewhat, but it's not clear what the daughters are here to tell us.I also have to note that I was frustrated and concerned by Jude's plot, which mostly centers around her relationship with Reese, a trans man. Almost all of the elements around Reese and queerness felt vague and fuzzy when many other things were given to us in such detail. Reese passes as a cis man so easily that after several years everyone wonders why Reese and Jude are still unmarried. Equating passing as a trans person with racial passing makes me feel very uncomfortable. They are not things that can and should be compared. So I had my hackles up almost immediately when Reese entered the story. And for much of Jude's first section, we get the typical kind of Trans 101 you expect when the cis character is the focus of the story and the trans character is a kind of window dressing. I was also confused by many of the details around Jude and Reese's social life, where they are out with groups of gay men and going to drag shows in the 70's. It isn't impossible, but spaces for gay men haven't exactly been open and friendly to trans men, and it would be unusual for a trans man with a girlfriend to be in that kind of space. (Yes, queer people have often been terrible and exclusionary and sexist and racist and plenty of other things.) The drag, again, seems to hammer in this idea of taking on a new identity as recurring theme, but again I am not sure that it really works. It is nice that Jude is so accepting but she's so accepting and they face no real repercussions to their relationship that sometimes it seems to almost invalidate the difficulties a trans man and his partner would have faced at the time.Without the queer issues, this would have still been a solid 4 stars for me, but I really couldn't get past it. Trans rep in fiction is certainly up, but there is so often this feeling that they aren't quite as fully real as other characters, that their trans-ness is there for some kind of message, and it really bothers me.I did this book on audio and it probably didn't help that I didn't like the reader.
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  • “She was always inventing her life.”Twin sisters. Two different paths: One chooses black. The other white. Their choices reflect societal norms, gender constructs, and racial inequality in contemporary America.Stella and Desiree grow up in Mallard, LA. Mallard, a town comprised of light-skinned black people, has a fascinating history. I could read a whole book just about Mallard. When the sisters run away to New Orleans, they see their escape as a time to reinvent themselves: "Stella became white and Desiree married the darkest man she could find."Stella chooses to pass as white. Her choice allows her to live a life filled with opportunity and privilege. At the same time, she is without her family. She is perpetually uncomfortable and is teetering on the edge of someone finding out her secret, so she makes the effort to bury her true self and live a life built on fragile lies. Most significantly, she chooses a life without her other half, her sister. Desiree’s choices result in her being stuck; stuck in a town she can’t leave, without a career, without a life. Nearly broken from her sister’s choice to leave her, she never gives up hope of finding Stella until it’s nearly too late.Through Stella and Desiree’s choices, Bennett juxtaposes race, gender, class, and sexuality. Bennett doesn’t simplify the outcomes of Stella and Desiree’s choices, rather she complicates them to expose the convoluted hierarchies of American culture and society. The Vanishing Half is a thought-provoking, complex, and timely read. I was entranced by Desiree and Stella’s stories, and I know I will be thinking about these characters for a long time.I received an ARC of this book from Edelweiss and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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  • I'm not sure I have words for how excellent this book turned out to be, but terms such as "breathtaking, poignant, and ultimately hopeful" come to mind. I was constantly reminded of the golden oldie movie Imitation of Life (1959) in regards to the discussions surround race, class, and gender, while also featuring a plot thread where a light skinned Black teenager is living her life passing as white. If you are wary of the hype, like I typically am, please know this is one instance where the substantial amount of praise is fully warranted, and I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a story that is equal parts educational and entertaining.
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  • I've always been fascinated by stories of self-reinvention: the way someone can simply walk out of their life and create an entirely new one somewhere else. Maybe I'm so drawn to these tales because they so dramatically and dynamically consider the meaning of identity. Which aspects of the self are fixed and which are fluid? Is personality a performance or an expression of who we inherently are as human beings? Can we change who we are through sheer willpower and if we lie about who we are enough does it eventually become the truth? These are questions at the heart of Brit Bennett's new novel “The Vanishing Half” whose utterly compelling story considers many different types of dualities and personal transformations. It's also a heartrending tale of a family split apart by inherited notions of classism and racism. Twins Stella and Desiree Vignes ran away from their small Louisiana town of Mallard in the 1950s when they were teenagers and went on to live very different lives. Mallard isn't a large enough place to be included on any map. Its citizens are primarily made up of light-skinned African Americans who still suffer the brutal effects of racism while simultaneously looking down at darker-skinned black people. This is the sort of community so powerfully described in Margo Jefferson's memoir “Negroland”. Over ten years after abruptly leaving the town, Desiree returns with a daughter who has very dark skin and the locals are appalled by what they consider to be her diminution of status because they believe “Once you mixed with common blood, you were common forever.”Read my full review of The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett on LonesomeReader
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  • 3.5 Two Black twins, so “light” they could “pass” for White. And, this story exploring “ PASSING” - a term I was not familiar with. One of the twins will choose to do just that-live life as a White woman.Her husband will never know the truth.She will not get to celebrate milestones with her twin sister or mother.She will not be able to share her heritage with her own daughter.I found this book to be profoundly SAD.IMAGINE believing that it would be worth LOSING all of that, to be WHITE? I enjoyed the first half of this book, when I learned about “Passing” and the story focused on the twin sisters..Desiree and Stella. The second half was not as strong for me, when the story shifted to their daughters, Jude and Kennedy, and the focus of race and “passing” became diluted with another theme, regarding a character named Reese. I understand it was another way to explore “Identity”.But, the book would’ve been more powerful for ME if the narratives had remained with the sisters-I wanted to spend more time with Desiree after she returned home-So we could see both her struggles and also the riches that she DID have-by having Adele, Jude, Early and the community of Mallard in her life.So that we could compare, and contrast, their two choices in more depth. To fully explore “PASSING”.I needed to feel more of the PAIN (of EACH sister) that resulted from Stella’s choice..As I wondered how many women who chose to PASS, would choose that path again? Relevant Timely.Available now!! Thank you to the publisher for providing a digital ARC through Edelweiss in exchange for a candid review!
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  • 4.5 starsThe Vignes twins are identical but they couldn’t be more different in personality. This is the story of light-skinned black twins whose lives take very different paths. The twins grew up in the odd little fictional southern town of Mallard where the blacks found dark skin undesirable. The lighter they were, the better, and the dark-skinned blacks faced discrimination from the light-skinned ones. As young children, the twins endure a trauma when they see their father lynched by white men. This changes the trajectory of their lives. Eventually the girls strike out on their own. Stella chooses to break ties with her family, “pass over”, and live as a white. She marries a wealthy white man and has a white, blond-haired daughter, Kennedy. Desiree makes a bad choice in a husband but eventually returns home to her hometown with Jude, her very dark black daughter.I don’t want to ruin the story and give away too much, so I’ll keep this light on plot. What is it like for Desiree and Jude to live in a town that values light skin and discriminates against dark skin, when Jude is so very dark? How does this shape her? What is it like for Stella to live a lie, to live without relatives or childhood friends, without a history to share? Does her wealth and privilege bring contentment and happiness? She can never truly open up to anyone, not even her husband and daughter, for fear of exposing her true self. How does this shape her daughter Kennedy? What happens when a black family moves into Stella’s very white, very wealthy neighborhood?Their choices have far-reaching unintended consequences. Eventually, events transpire that threatens to destroy the life Stella has so carefully built. How she reacts and the effects on the daughters of Stella and Desiree comprise much of the second half of the book. I found the first half a slow build up but the second half I blew through in an afternoon. The only things that kept me from giving this a full 5 stars were a few too many coincidences moving the plot forward and awkward transitions between chapters and characters. But, the strengths in this moving novel overshadows these small criticisms.Powerful, thought-provoking, and profound, but told through such compelling, yet flawed, characters it doesn’t read like an “issue” book. The subplot of identity is handled with depth and sensitivity. Spanning decades, from the 1950s to the 1990s, this is an exploration of “passing”. I had not heard this term used before and read more here:https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswit...Is the vanishing half losing your twin or is it losing the half of yourself you choose to deny and leave behind when you pass? Perhaps it’s both. I love an introspective book that reveals the inner lives of characters. Days after finishing the book and I'm still thinking about these characters and the issues raised.Marialyce and I read this together and it inspired thoughtful, deep discussions. This would make a wonderful choice for a book club .*I received a free digital copy of this book via Edelweiss. All opinions are my own.
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  • "You could never quite get used to loneliness..." Identical twin sisters, Desiree, and Stella Vignes were born in Mallard, Louisiana, a town so small it cannot be found on the map. They have witnessed atrocities inflicted upon their father at a young age. They decide to run away from their southern black community at the age of 16 and start over in New Orleans. Years later, Desiree returns to her hometown with her young daughter while her twin sister Stella, is living as a white woman and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Desiree longs for her sister who left without saying goodbye.Both twins’ lives go in separate directions. Once Stella leaves, neither knows what became of the other. Their lives; however, are intertwined (their daughter's lives intertwine) as this book moves from the deep south to the east coast, and to California from the 1950s to the 1990s. This is a story about love, family, mothers, daughters, acceptance, racism, how race shapes individuals' lives. This book also touches on domestic violence, gender identity, racial identity, and acceptance.This book gives us various characters with distinct personalities and POVs. We not only read but feel their pain, their heartache, their loneliness, their happiness, and their strength. I found this to be a beautifully written and thought-provoking book. This was my first book by Brit Bennett, and it will not be my last. I received a copy of this book from the Editor and Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions are my own.
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  • News flash: HBO and Brit Bennett made a 7 figure deal for the adaptation of the book into limited series!🎉🎈Wowza! This is unique! This is impeccable! This is perfectly written and I wished it never ended, pushed myself to read it slower, rereading some chapters over and over! It’s phenomenal and one of the best readings of the year!Welcome to Mallard/Louisa: small town can be hardly found ( or never found) on your maps: maybe you may accidentally find there during your unluckiest hitchhiking experience. A town has been founded by Alphonse Decuir, inherited acres of land from his father, making this place the home of people who are not accepted in the white community but also who reject to be treated like negroes. And in 1938 two little girls- identical twins: Stella and Desiree Vignes were born. Throughout the years they have been having hard times to find their places in the community, Desiree always told her sister she would find a way to get the hell of there. It’s not easy to relate in place where its people think if you have lighter skin, you may have better luck. And when they are sixteen, their mother pushes them to leave school and work in a wealthy white people’s gorgeous mansion as cleaners. Stella starts yearning the rich people’s lives as Desiree dreams other possibilities they can have. When she watches Roman Holiday at the theater she dreams to be actress which makes her thing endless possibilities of outer world as soon as she escape from her prisoner life in the town.And one day: they truly leave the town to go to New Orleans, only two hours away. But as you can imagine: running away from your home in your young ages without enough money and life experiment push the girls’ limits. They may take risks or go back to the place where they run. So both of them take different paths which result with different life patterns: Stella marries with a wealthy white man and has a girl who thinks she is white as Desiree chooses to end her relationship with her abusive husband and go back to Mallard 14 years later with her child and because of her child’s dark skin she is not welcomed by town’s people. Even though I had some prejudged approach to Stella’s life choices, it was impossible not to ache for her as you witness her melancholy, loneliness, trying to living a lie. Throughout 40 years, we witness twins’ lives and see how their daughters’ paths cross. Normally I don’t like to read stories told by too many POVS which could be confusing and create unnecessary commotion in my head but this time hearing multiple voices and reading the incredible stories which are connected and completed each other like puzzle pieces were joyful reading experience for me.This story is truly though-provoking, extremely emotional, soul crushing, realistic, shaking you to the core. This is one of the books stay with you forever. I truly enjoyed each chapter, characters and I highly recommend it to fiction, historical fiction genre lovers. After this fantastic literature feast, I’m looking forward to read the author’s previous work: “Mothers”bloginstagramfacebooktwitter
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  • Sooooo GOOD!!! ...Pathos and Pain.......Profound Thoughtfulness......Spellbinding prose.......Surprises I never saw coming......A book that kept me interested and curious from start to finish......Filled with substantial depth and insights.Brit Bennett brings to life characters that made me desperately want to vanish into the her storytelling world. Meet twin sisters, Desiree and Stella Vignes. They grew up in a Black Community - a town so small - it couldn’t be found on a map: Mallard, Louisiana.At age 16 they ran away together to New Orleans....A fascinating tale begins .....dealing with identity, racism, choices!That’s all I’m saying!A wonderful novel to Go in Blind!!! There is nothing not to like about this book.It promises to tickle your interest bones!!!Highly recommended - great book club pick! It’s irresistible! *Brit Bennett’s first novel, “The Mother’s” was wonderful....received much recognition....a terrific enjoyable book, too....This 2nd book, “The Vanishing Act”...is even better! Congrats to Brit. She outdid herself.
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  • One of the best books of 2020 hands down.The Vanishing Half reminds me of The Guest Book in how well written and quotable it is. It was a very similar reading experience. I was so moved by this story and just sat in awe the entire time I read it. I think I said in my Instagram review that I was put in a zombie trance from the very first page and that is a fact. I was fortunate enough to have won a copy of this from an Instagram contest and be included in a discussion and Q&A with other readers as well as the author. I found out about this event 4 days before it was to happen and I hadn't even started the book. (Crap!) I had no idea how I was going to get through a 350 page book in that short of time (lately, reading time has been at a bare minimum), but luckily I was able to get it done in time and I pretty much only took a break to work and sleep. I was taking pictures of whole passages so I could write them down in my journal. It also had me thinking a lot. Any book that causes me to look internally at myself or think about a perspective different from my own and learn new things...I'm sold. Well, now I feel it is my obligation to sell this book to you. You've seen the summary, but what the summary doesn't include is the journey you're about to go on. The story is so much more than a story of twin sisters. It's about every day people. It's about racial identity, gender identity, socioeconomic identity and so much more. Is your identity something that your appearance dictates? Or do we consciously evolve based on our surroundings? Is it something that we are born knowing? The questions are endless. This book could have easily become preachy. It could have been a book that you could mentally check a box for each hot button issue it discussed. Well, not this book. Not this piece of literary genius. To me, it did what I had hoped Such a Fun Age would do. It was a freaking master class that dared you to look in the mirror, stare at your reflection and strip the layers away of who you are. The other thing I sit in awe of is how all the stories are woven together. Each part jumps in time and begins with a zoomed out approach of something that has nothing to do with what you just finished reading. Some general history of the town, or a house, or a movement and then bam. You're right back with the story and you get that holistic approach to bring even more context to the story. It really was just a spectacular read. I urge you to consider reading it and I hope if you do, we can discuss it!Thanks so much to Riverhead Books and Brit Bennett for the advanced review copy in exchange for an honest review.Review Date: 05/22/2020Publication Date: 06/02/2020
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  • So well written and so interesting! I’ve never read anything by Britt Bennett but this won’t be my last. The story focuses on twin sisters, Desiree and Stella, and their daughters, Jude and Kennedy. The twins come from Mallard, Louisiana, where having light skin is greatly valued. The twins’ skin is light enough that Stella decides to “pass” as white and disappears from Desiree’s life in the late 1960s when they are in their early 20s. The story then moves back and forth in time and from the different characters’ perspectives. Bennett’s writing is lovely, making the read smooth and engaging. The structure of the story is original. And the story and characters kept me interested and curious from beginning to end. Can’t ask for anything better in a novel — especially at a time when I find it challenging to find novels that keep my attention. This was a buddy read with Angela and Diane — it made for interesting discussion and I suspect this one would be a great book club read. Thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for an advance copy.
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  • This is a thought provoking story and a few scenes were not easy to read. There’s racism here, a violent incident against a man, witnessed by his young twin daughters, and more trauma for one of the girls than we want to imagine. This and their upbringing in a small black community in Louisiana where people believe the lighter they are the better life will be. So it wasn’t a surprise that when twin sisters Desiree and Stella Vignes run away at sixteen, that their futures would take them on journeys seeking their identities. Although inseparable as young girls, they part ways and their chosen lives take very different paths. While it’s easy to connect with Desiree and the choices she makes, it’s not very easy to accept how Stella has chosen to live a lie and was most of the time unlikable. Yet, I was still drawn to her and felt for her, trying to understand her more.While racial identity is the core of the story, there are so many other layers here with characters that the author portrays in such a way that I got a sense of who they were, even if at times they questioned their own identities. The story is told from multiple points of view - the sisters Desiree and Stella and later their daughters, Jude and Kennedy, each of them searching it seemed, to find their true selves. It’s about different kinds of relationships between sisters, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, women and the men in their lives, cousins who find each other. There are other elements to the story such as spousal abuse and sexual identity. Almost all of the characters found a way to my heart. I found this to be such a well written story that captivated me from the first page and made me want to get to Britt Bennett’s debut novel The Mothers, which has been on my list.As always I’m grateful to read along with Diane and Esil. I love our discussions and sharing our perspectives . I received an advanced copy of this book from Riverhead/Penguin through EdelweissZ
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  • NOW AVAILABLE!!!There were many ways to be alienated from someone, few to actually belong.i know it looks like i’m over here five-starring a lot of books in a row all of a sudden, but it’s not so much that i’ve lucked into a run of excellent reading choices as it is me finally sitting down to review books so good it's been intimidating me to even think about reviewing them. ALTHOUGH—if we’re being super-duper honest, Blacktop Wasteland and Betty were both 4s going in (but 4.5s in my heart) that got bumped up to fives when rereading them for the review made me remember how dingdang good they were. this one was a five out of the gate. it’s so good i don’t even know where to start. it’s a family saga that takes place over the course of forty or so years, beginning in 1938 with the birth of twin sisters stella and desiree vignes in the town of mallard, louisiana; a black community with an unusual beginning:The idea arrived to Alphonse Decuir in 1848, as he stood in the sugarcane fields he’d inherited from the father who’d once owned him. The father now dead, the now-freed son wished to build something on those acres of land that would last for centuries to come. A town for men like him, who would never be accepted as white but refused to be treated like Negroes. A third place.the residents embraced their founder’s dream of a more perfect Negro. Each generation lighter than the one before, and by the time the vignes girls—his great-great-great-granddaughters—are born, his bloodline has been bleached into “creamy skin, hazel eyes, [and] wavy hair," none of which attributes protect them from racism; from seeing their father lynched in their home when they are little girls, or from race factoring into their lives and shaping their opportunities when they run away from home as teenagers. they live together in new orleans for a few years before stella abruptly cuts ties with her sister and disappears into a new life that she will live as a white woman—marrying a wealthy white man and raising a daughter who has no idea she's anything but white. meanwhile, desiree will leave the abusive father of her own daughter and move back to mallard, her child's exceptional darkness there unexpected, unwelcome. eventually, three generations of paths will cross, secrets will be discovered, everyone'll have to address their choices. honestly, i don’t want to blah and blah about plot—i always spend way too much time on silly reviews, writing 20-page dissertations on minutiae that nobody cares about but meeeee before deleting all of it anyway and i need to stop being foolish with my time and learn to do things in miniaturized efficiency when i’m not getting paid. but i will say that this is a tremendous second novel after a really impressive debut and bennett writes beautifully about family and grief and identity and being deeply, unbearably lonely—the loneliness of the estranged twins, the self-othering loneliness isolating stella from her old life and in her new one, the loneliness of growing up dark in a colorstruck town etc etc. i'm doing it again so i'm gonna shut myself up now because i loved every little bit of this novel and we could be here all day if i don't put a stop to it now. ***************************The Mothers was good, this one is GOLD.review to come ASAP.*******************************my SECOND goodreads-win of 2020!! this is the only good thing in the world right now.come to my blog!
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