The Vanishing Half
Longlisted for the National Book Award
‘The Vanishing Half is an utterly mesmerising novel. It seduces with its literary flair, surprises with its breath-taking plot twists, delights with its psychological insights, and challenges us to consider the corrupting consequences of racism on different communities and individual lives. I absolutely loved this book’ Bernardine Evaristo, winner of the Booker Prize 2019
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’ story lines intersect?
Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.
Praise for Brit Bennett:
‘A writer to watch’ Washington Post
‘Bennett allows her characters to follow their worst impulses, and she handles provocative issues with intelligence, empathy and dark humour’ New York Times
‘A beautifully written, sad and lingering book’ Guardian on The Mothers
Stunning . . . seamless and suspenseful . . . engrossing and surprisingly apolitical . . . The result is a novel that reads effortlessly . . . There is tremendous, timeless wisdom here — AV Club A lyrical mediation on identity, race and gender. Bennett explores the selves we choose to be, as well as the selves we have imposed on us with great empathy and precision. The Vanishing Half is a gorgeous, generous novel and written with true heart — Elizabeth Day A novel about motherhood and race, incredibly clever and interrogates race with nuance . . . Compulsively readable . . . An incredible talent . . . a book to look forward to * The High Low podcast * The Vanishing Half is an immersive story about family, identity and belonging * Red * Bennett’s mesmerising gem is a masterclass of moving storytelling. The Vanishing Half is also a thought provoking
assessment of race and social politics in post-war America .. . The powerful plot twists will keep you gripped until the end * Independent * A powerful, tender family epic which reminds us directly and poignantly that things are not black and white * Louisa Young * Brit Bennett is a tremendous talent * Imbolo Mbue * The Vanishing Half does exactly what a great novel is meant to do. It fills you with questions, exposes you to realities you may never have thought of and of course keeps you up into the night reading. The characters in this book are so real, so warm and so very complicated. I loved every part of it, even when it was making me sad or angry. It’s just such a beautiful story — Luan Goldie The detail and the feeling showcased in every sentence Brit Bennett writes is breathtaking. The Vanishing Half is a novel that shows just how human emotion, uncertainty and longing can be captured and put on paper * Candice Carty-Williams * Superb. A gorgeously immersive novel. It deftly explores the dichotomies of twinship, passing and class in America * Irenosen Okojie * An impressive and arresting novel. Perceptive in its insights and poised in execution, this is an important, timely examination of the impact of race on personality, experience and relationships * Diana Evans * A potent, generous, and masterful novel. Bennett is a humane and supple story-teller we are lucky to have * Olivia Sudjic * The Vanishing Half should mark the induction of Brit Bennett into the small group of likely successors to Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston and Nella Larsen. I read it torn between competing urges: I wanted to greedily turn the pages, yet I also wanted to savour every word, lingering as long as I could with the delicious feeling of being sunk so deep into the story that every time I set the book aside it felt like coming up for air. Compelling, compassionate and astonishingly good * Sara Collins * A novel of immense, shining, powerful intelligence * Deborah Levy * The Vanishing Half is an utterly mesmerising novel. It seduces with its literary flair, surprises with its breath-taking plot twists, delights with its psychological insights, and challenges us to consider the corrupting consequences of racism on different communities and individual lives. I absolutely loved this book * Bernardine Evaristo, winner of the Booker Prize * Brit Bennett has learned a lot from Toni Morrison – the use of uncanny rural communities in the South/Midwest; twins/doppelgangers to explore the extreme edges of the American Dream; whip-smart dialogue – but her exquisite slowness and patience of tone are unique. A wonderful, cosseting read * Paul Mendez, author of Rainbow Milk * As thought-provoking as it is engrossing * Oprah magazine * Deeply compelling . . . brilliantly creates a network of characters – singular and vivid . . . There are moments . . . that stun with quiet power . . . The Vanishing Half more than succeeds as a beautifully imagined story about an American family * USA Today * Stunning . . . Bennett pulls it off brilliantly . . . Few novels manage to remain interesting from start to finish, even – maybe especially – the brilliant ones. But . . . Bennett locks readers in and never lets them go * Los Angeles Times * Bennett balances the literary demands of dynamic characterization with the historical and social realities of her subject matter. . . there is such depth, possibility and dramatic propulsion . . a brave foray into vast and difficult terrain. . . .The novel raises thorny questions about the cost of blackness. The answers are complicated * New York Times Book Review * Bennett’s gorgeously written second novel, an ambitious meditation on race and identity, considers the divergent fates of twin sisters, born in the Jim Crow South, after one decides to pass for white. Bennett balances the literary demands of dynamic characterization with the historical and social realities of her subject matter * New York Times *
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