Book Review: The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

I almost started this review with adjectives denoting the influence of this story on me but realised these one-word compliments wouldn’t do justice to The Vanishing Half.

She’d tell her because, in spite of everything, Loretta was her only friend in the world. Because she knew that, if it came down to her word versus Loretta’s, she would always be believed. And knowing this, she felt, for the first time, truly white.

Brit Bennett

In the book, Brit Bennett explores the intense grief of losing your loved one, complex family dynamics, loneliness, the trauma of abusive relationships, white privilege, and racism. All this she does in 352 pages, that in itself is a fucking victory.

The plot begins with young twins Desiree and Stella Vignes seeing the gruesome murder of their father by white men. They soon itch to escape the small town of Mallard with a curiousity to explore. Once out, Stella abandons Desiree and ‘passes as white’ to begin her life anew. Meanwhile, Desiree returns to the town with her daughter, a place that she despised, after surviving an abusive marriage.

Although some characters’ personalities frustrated me, I felt truly sorry for them as no one should live with that kind of anxiety and loneliness whole life. I was educated about how powerful the consequences of every decision can be. As a reader, I constantly fathomed the question, ‘Will I become somebody else if given a second chance at living?’ ‘Will I start my new life based on a lie which I told myself?’

Not for the first time, it struck me no matter how microscopic we seem when compared to the vastness of this universe, each of us has a story to tell.

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