Hey Guys! My name is Max and today, I will be reviewing a novel which has been getting a lot of buzz online lately called The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett who also wrote The Mothers which I will be reading soon because this book literally shattered my soul. Before we get into the review, I would like to thank Times Reads for sending a copy of this book to me.
So, without further ado, let us get into the review section of this article.
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?
“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.
I have been reading a lot of Literary Fiction lately and most of them had managed to impress me and this novel is no exception. This novel approaches tough topics with ease and it weaves the stories of the Vignes family throughout 3 generations – the mother of the twins, the twins and the twins’ children. Although there are some flaws towards the end of the novel, I thought this novel was still insightful, entertaining and well-written.
I thought the pacing for this novel was well-paced. A lot of people might disagree with me because I had read an abundance of reviews stating that the pacing is slow as hell but I thought it was not as slow as what reviewers said it would be because I had read slower books like Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver (a terrible novel which is a story for another day) and Heartless by Marissa Meyer (which I thought was confounding) and the pacing for this novel is definitely not as slow as the ones I had listed.
However, I can see why people would say that this is a long-drawn-out novel because the 1/3 of the novel contains a multitude of history of the town and the people and the twins and introduction to the characters without much drama centering around the story but after you get passed that, the pacing did pick up and before you know it, you have reached the end of the novel. The pacing for the 1/3 of the novel did not bother me at all because I was totally invested in the story so I think this is pretty subjective to each and every one of you.
The writing style for this novel is eloquent and it is never once periphrastic. The sentences flow well together and everything about it is just very crisp. Oh, and it is also descriptive which I absolutely enjoyed. Miss Bennett paints these pictures in your head and the visuals are so clear I cannot help but admire her writing abilities.
There are important topics such as the discussion on passing and race and white privilege being talked about in this novel and there is representation of a transgender man in this novel. This book taught me about passing (in case you did not know what passing means, here’s the definition I got from Wikipedia: “Passing is the ability of a person to be regarded as a member of an identity group or category different from their own, which may include racial identity, ethnicity, caste, social class, sexual orientation, gender, religion, age and/or disability status.“) and I cannot believe I have never heard about it before. To say that this book is insightful is an understatement because it taught me so many things from passing to the internalized racism that one of the characters have to the lives and hardships that black people face every single day. I will not speak on the transgender man being a good or bad representation of the LGBT community because I do not identify myself as a transgender but I am happy that there is representation of the LGBT community in this novel.
In this novel, we have Stella, Desiree, Jude, Kennedy and a few others but the novel focuses on these four central characters the most. Stella and Desiree are twin sisters and both of them are vastly different from each other. Desiree is more playful, daring and talkative whereas Stella is more studious, focused and less talkative. They are both complex and extremely interesting and both ultimately ended up in different paths. One decided to pass over as white and the other is perfectly comfortable with herself. Their character growths throughout the novel is very interesting and gradual that I found myself caring each of them equally. Jude and Kennedy are the offspring of both the twins. Jude faces a lot of hardships in her life; from being racially discriminated by her classmates and for being judged by being with a handsome white man. It irks me so much that these racist bitches would invalidate a person like that. Ugh absolutely disgusting. Kennedy is a privilege, spoiled brat and the topic on white privilege is tackled through her. I absolutely loved the characterization this book has and I cannot wait to see what she has to offer in her debut novel – The Mothers.
The ending is the weakest point of this novel for me. There were several parts in the ending chapter that I enjoyed but overall, it left a very stale and lukewarm feeling in my stomach. I enjoyed how realistic it is for Stella’s husband to not know about her real ethnicity as the final chapter closes and how the Vignes sisters no longer talk but the daughters did but everything else did not make the cut. For example, the part where her daughter broke up and got back together with Reese is absolutely unnecessary. Why throw that in the novel in the final chapter and not prolong the book for an extra chapter focusing on that? I would definitely be interested in it but alas, it did not.
My final verdict for this novel is 88% (A). This novel explores race, gender and identity and if you love books that tackle those topics, you should definitely pick this amazing novel up! Also, it is definitely time for me to pick The Mothers up after reading this astonishing novel.
Before you go, do check out this fantastic review of The Vanishing Half by The Storyscape. She articulates this novel better than I do and she brings up a plethora of interesting topics and her real-life experiences in the video.
This is the end of my review for The Vanishing Half By Brit Bennett! I hope you all enjoyed it and follow me with your email/Wordpress account to get notifications when I post a new article! Bye!