The Vanishing Half

Brit Bennett

The Vanishing Half
  • Format
  • Publisher
  • Country
  • Published
  • Pages
  • ISBN

The Vanishing Half

Brit Bennett

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' story lines 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.      

Review

The Vignes twins are like two halves of a whole: impulsive, smart-mouthed Desiree is a neat contrast to careful, practical Stella. Born in Mallard – a unique black community in Louisiana, set apart by the light skin of its inhabitants – they escape their town’s confines as teenagers, running away to New Orleans. Here, their paths diverge when Stella, after taking a job under the guise of a white woman, disappears. Desiree marries, briefly, before returning to her colour-obsessed hometown, a noticeably dark-skinned child in tow. Thousands of miles away, her sister is grappling with the weight of her decision to pass as white, knowing her own child must forever be kept at arm’s length. A masterful exploration of inherited trauma, this novel asks whether you can ever truly escape the past.

The Vanishing Half is Brit Bennett’s sophomore follow-up to her terrific 2016 debut, The Mothers, and it does not disappoint. A pacey and immersive read that spans the Jim Crow era through to the nineties, Bennett skilfully juggles multiple narrative strands as she traces the lives of the two sisters and their daughters over the years.

This is the kind of historical fiction that sets individuals against the backdrop of grand events, illuminating how the political shapes the personal. Desiree and Stella, their daughters Jude and Kennedy, the men who revolve around them – these are people who feel uneasy in the world. There are the twins, bound by a shared traumatic memory and forever missing their ghostly other half. There’s Jude, her dark skin marking her as an outcast within her own community. There’s Kennedy, resentful and wary of her unknowable mother. There’s Reese, a transgender man at a time predating surgical options in America.

In a sense, The Vanishing Half is a book of mirrors, the storylines playing off one another in clever, often tender, ways, while never becoming exact copies. Reading this work will expand your heart, and that is always what I want fiction to do.


Bronte Coates is the digital content manager and the Readings Prizes manager.

This item is in-stock and will ship in 2-3 business days

Please note, our stock data is updated overnight, and availability may change throughout the day. Prices are subject to change without notice.

Sign in or become a Readings Member to add this title to a wishlist.

 Read reviewNo One Is Talking About This

No One Is Talking About This

Patricia Lockwood

Irreverent and sincere, poignant and delightfully profane, No One Is Talking About This is at once a love letter to the infinite scroll and a meditation on love, language and human connection from one of the most original voices...

$29.99Buy now

Finding stock availability...

Unsettled Ground

Unsettled Ground

Claire Fuller

What if the life you have always known is taken from you in an instant? What would you do to get it back?

$32.99Buy now

Finding stock availability...

 Read reviewTranscendent Kingdom: Shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2021

Transcendent Kingdom: Shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021

Yaa Gyasi

From the bestselling author of Homegoing comes a novel from the heart of contemporary America- a story of family love and addiction, of heartbreak and redemption.

$32.99Buy now

Finding stock availability...

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House

Cherie Jones

A powerful, heart-wrenching novel of a troubled island, of three marriages, and of the women who live, love and fight to survive.

$32.99Buy now

Finding stock availability...

 Read reviewPiranesi

Piranesi

Susanna Clarke

From the New York Times bestselling author of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, an intoxicating, hypnotic new novel set in a dreamlike alternative reality.

$27.99Buy now

Finding stock availability...

 Read reviewThe Vanishing Half

The Vanishing Half

Brit Bennett

From the author of the New York Times bestseller The Mothers, a powerful new novel about the parallel lives of estranged twin sisters who choose to live in two very different worlds - one black and one white.     ...

$32.99Buy now

Finding stock availability...