Book Review Of The Heartwarming The Vanishing Half By Brit Bennett - 2020 - Much Ado About Everything
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Book Review of the Heartwarming The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett – 2020

by AniM
 
 

 

The Vanishing Half Book Review

Book Review – The Vanishing Half

My Rating – 4.5 out of 5

Book Review 

This, my friends, is a tale of two sisters, identical twins at that, who are of mixed race (between African and Caucasian, so much so that they can pass off as “White”) based in mid-twentieth century America. Time of post depression America, when being Black was as bad as being a Jew in Hitler’s Germany.
 
The twins, Stella and Desiree were born in the 1950’s America in the fictional town of Mallard, in Louisiana, and embark on lives marked by identical upbringing but choosing to travel in opposing trajectories when they turn sixteen.
 
Mallard, their hometown, is racially mixed but the “Mulattos” (mixed race ethnology) enjoy as much privilege as the Blacks and even their own folks look down upon co-mingling with Blacks.
The twins witness their father, dragged from inside their house, being lynched by a White mob for no crime other than being successful in his entrepreneurship. This event scars them forever and their nightmares are forever laced with the terror of helpless surrender.
Their lives in Mallard are staid and nondescript and both twins strain against the leash, yearning to escape the drudgery of working as house helps in a White mansion, having been forced to renounce School by their mother, Adele, to help run their family.
 
The teenage sisters soon flee Mallard, and end up in New Orleans, not knowing what lies ahead of them. Relying initially on stranger’s kindness, they struggle to survive but gamely soldier on.
Desiree, the more outspoken one, lands a good job with a Government agency and Stella, the quiet, withdrawn one, gets a job too. But one find day, Stella just ups and leaves, vanished without a trace.
Desiree, disconsolate at her twin’s insensitivity, returns to Mallard a few years later, with her daughter in tow, more to escape an abusive husband than to escape the mysterious treachery of Stella.
Desiree’s daughter, Jude, is dark as coal, having taken after her father, Sam. Tongues never stop wagging in Mallard, both at her defeated return to her home town as well as her ‘blueblack’ daughter’s lineage.
 
Soon, it is revealed that Stella is now in LA, having surreptitiously turned ‘White’ and marrying Blake Sanders, a rich guy, living a wealthy life. Her past and her secrets carefully buried, though she lives in continuous fear of getting exposed as the liar and cheat that she’s made herself into.
Stella and Blake have a daughter called Kennedy, who’s almost the same age as Jude, though they now have nothing in common but mothers who are twins. But man proposes, God disposes…. and everything comes tumultuously together as Stella’s life starts unraveling.
 

Conclusion of the Book Review

The omniscient but persistent voice of Brit Bennett is gentle and compassionate throughout the tale that inverts and confounds expectations. This is neither a Thriller, a Mystery nor a sappy Romance, this is the tale of human lives told through the wisdom of a great observer.
Bennett ably shows the superficiality of a vain cultural class system, a bigoted society hell bent on proving that one class of human beings are inferior to another only because their skin colors differ.
The vacuous nature of a life of abundance of material wealth as compared to a life full of emotional riches is amply demonstrated by the author. The Vanishing Half may seem old-fashioned but it’s a brilliantly told story to both exemplify and look through a lens at the overt racism of the 1950s and 60s.
Her tone rings with the authenticity and style of the period and finally, it’s a quietly bruising account of surrendering to a false and pretentious life and the grand delusion of the American dream.
 
A must-read, especially for those who have a thing for poignant human stories….
 
 

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