The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Twin sisters go separate ways when they are 16 years old. When their teenage daughters bring them together again will they be happy with the lives they chose?

Desiree and Stella are from Mallard, a small town in the rural south that isn’t on any map. It’s a town of predominately black citizens who are all light-skinned. Their father was brutally murdered by a group of white men and their single mother has raised them alone ever since.

The girls ran away to New Orleans in 1968 and then soon split ways. Stella passes for white and joins a world she has only seen from afar. Her future husband and daughter have no idea about her family history and she wants to keep it that way. If anyone discovered that she was black, she’d lose everything.

Desiree marries the darkest man she can find, but unfortunately he isn’t the man of her dreams. In 1978, she took her daughter, Jude, and runs away from his abuse. With nowhere else to go, she goes to her childhood home with hopes to leave quickly. But days turn into months that turn into years.

When Jude goes off to college in California, she sees a woman entering a fancy house party who looks just like her mother. She begins piecing together the puzzle of her long-lost aunt through her newfound cousin, Kennedy (who by all accounts looks 100% white). The two teenagers become somewhat of friends through several meetings.

But Jude isn’t content to let the truth be buried. She’s willing to risk everything.

Follow the diverging and converging stories of four women; all on their own paths. You’ll be surprised by what happens in life.

There’s a budding love story between Jude and Reese that explores gender identity. And a second chance at love for Desiree when she rekindles an old flame with Early. Explore family connections and obligations.

This story will take you through decades and generations of love and loss, truth and lies, family and friends.

Brit Bennett is amazing. Her writing was smooth. Her stories were intricate and real. Her dialogue brought the characters to life.

I enjoyed reading The Vanishing Half and it was the perfect summer read. I had been seeing and hearing so much about this book that it was about time I picked it up. I don’t always go for the trendy, popular books, but I’m glad I did for this one.

I liked Desiree and Stella. They were both so intent on creating the perfect life for themselves. But it didn’t always go as planned. Stella thought she wanted a life as a white woman, and she got what she wanted. But it wasn’t what it was cracked up to be. She lived in fear of being discovered and losing everything, including her husband and daughter. She struggled when black neighbors moved into the neighborhood and it was so hard to watch her choose between having a friend and risking discovery or being lonely yet safe. Heartbreaking.

Desiree wanted to run away and live outside of small, rural Mallard. But she changed her mind and came back to live a happy, simple life with her daughter, mother, and boyfriend. She seemed happy most of the time but still missed her sister.

Overall, the storylines linked up well. The year shifted several times to focus on the twins or on their daughters. It kept the story flowing and gave me the feeling that all of the loose ends were wrapped up. The plot sped up after a slow start while also gaining complexity.

I loved the idea that anyone can shape their own lives and futures. Just because you are born in one place or as one person doesn’t mean you can’t aspire to change what you don’t like. This is a really great life lesson. Push for what you want: a family, an education, a new gender, a lover, a new job.

Great summer read; would highly recommend it.

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