The Vanishing Half ~ by Brit Bennett

This came up on several “best of” lists including former president Obama’s from last year.  It was on my Wish List at Audible for months until I just got sick of seeing it there and removed it.  Then it was available at the library so I snatched it.  Whatever – I’m very glad I read it.  It changed my outlook on a few things.  The book had some problems though – imo.  

The Vanishing Half
by Brit Bennett 
Read by Shayna Small 11h 24m
2020 / (350 pages) 
Rating: 9 / Contemp. Lit.  

The story is about twin Black girls in the late 1960s and on through their lives to the 1990s.  While in their teens these girls leave their tiny town of Mallard first for New Orleans and then they take radically different paths in life. The story goes from the very late 1940s when their dad is killed and winds up at the end of the 1990’s.

Mallard is a very tiny Louisiana town where the residents are all a very light Black just as the original developer had been.  As teenagers the girls leave Mallard and go to New Orleans where they find work and men. Stella leaves with Mr Sanders, her white boss, for a new life while Desiree follows a very dark man to Washington DC.  She finds out that her man is violent and returns to Mallard and her mother. with Jade, her very dark 8-yearn old girl. Meanwhile, Stella marries Blake and has her own child, Kennedy.

Stella starts passing as White during the early years with Blake Sanders. That means she stays away from Mallard and lies to Blake and Kennedy as well as neighbors.

The nonlinear structure makes the novel confusing to follow and I got the multi-generational characters mixed up too. There are 4 main women with each having a separate life which brings up issues of identity and wanting to belong as well as racism, family, mother-daughter relationships, poverty vs wealth.   

My problems were that the 60-year time span with a non-linear structure gets complicated and I sometimes lost track. Also, with 4 lead women and their families I got confused about who each one was and when. It did all straighten out though but the ending dragged a bit- like Bennett didn’t quite want to leg go of these people.

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4 Responses to The Vanishing Half ~ by Brit Bennett

  1. Lisa Hill says:

    This is a classic example of what can sometimes be wrong with audio books. They can be very confusing if there are non-linear structures.
    I read this one as a book, and I remember flicking back here and there to clarify confusions, but it’s much harder to do that with an audio book…

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    • Yes, Lisa! I do go back and forth a bit in some Audio books – sometimes whole chapters. I noticed when I looked at the Kindle sample later that it also has more dates mentioned at the beginning of chapters. Those weren’t usually included in the Audio – I only remember a couple times when they startled me. I think I would have benefited from a Kindle version for reading along.

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  2. Yes, I think there are books which are better in print and a few which are better in audio. I think sometimes classics are better in audio because the language gets sorted out by the reader and is read appropriately. But newer books sometimes leave too much out to be good in audible. ??? – I often get both a Kindle and an Audible and love that. I think I didn’t with this one because 1. it’s fiction so no footnotes or graphics and 2 I got the audio via the library.

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