How is everyone holding up during the pandemic? To keep myself from going stir-crazy, I have been reading even more than usual. What are you doing to keep sane?
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett is the 2020 Goodreads Choice Award winning book for historical fiction. It had a total of 102,626 votes cast for it, with the second-place book receiving 34,021 votes. That really is an astounding win. On www.Bookmovement.com this novel is currently the second most popular book for book clubs. I can see how it would be full of interesting discussions. But for some reason, I didn’t love it.
The premise of the story is that Stella and Desiree Vignes are identical twins, born in Mallard, Louisiana. Mallard was founded by their great-great-grandfather as a community for light-skinned black people. After their mother makes them drop out of high school, they run away to New Orleans at age 16. In order to get a better job, Stella decides to “pass over” and become a white person. She falls in love with her wealthy white boss and abandons Desiree with no explanation. Stella and her husband eventually end up in Los Angeles and raise a spoiled blond-headed daughter named Kennedy. After New Orleans, Desiree moves to Washington, DC, and marries a black attorney, who beats her. Desiree takes their very dark-skinned daughter, Jude, back to Mallard to escape the abuse.
Stella lives in constant fear that someone will find out she comes from a black family. She lies to her family and friends. Her storyline is probably the reason why I didn’t love the book. She is miserable and has the exact same emotion over and over. Stella’s daughter, Kennedy, is given everything on a silver spoon but drops out of college to become an actress. She loves playing roles and being admired. She is not a nice person and seems to wander aimlessly at times.
Desiree is the most normal of the characters. While she couldn’t wait to get out of Mallard, she was happy once she came back. She has a job she enjoys, a boyfriend, and a loving relationship with her mother and daughter. Desiree’s daughter, Jude, has many insecurities because her skin is so dark in a town that only appreciates light skin. She is incredibly smart and has a full scholarship to college in California. During her freshman year of college, Jude falls in love with Reese, who is transitioning from female to male. Their relationship made the prude in me a little uncomfortable.
This is a story about the roles people play in life, and how they can transform and reinvent themselves and their identities. It is also about love between couples, parents and children, siblings, and families. The book also shows how racial discrimination and segregation impacted neighborhoods.
3-stars for me, but like I said there are lots of people who love this book. It is a compelling and unique story.