There are times when I read a book that I know I have picked up a truly amazing, breath-taking story that will live inside me for a while. You know what I mean. The characters are missed when the book is finished. You want the story to go on.
This is one of those books. It’s The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett.
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In the small town of Mallard, Louisiana , a ‘town not even on a map’ is a population that is unique. The town consists of generations of people whose great-grandfathers were slaves, but their uniqueness is the lightness of their skin. The people are prideful of this trait and yet many are still mired in the social problems of the era of the 1950s. In the middle of this are twins Stella and Desiree.
They grow up knowing they cannot mix with anyone having dark skin. When Desiree does, she is swiftly reminded by her mother that this is not allowed. The girls feel stifled in this community with its old-fashioned way of life and poverty, and in their 16th year, they leave Mallard. It is 1954.
The girls settle in New Orleans. Each works at whatever job they can find. They live together and try to find a path for this new life to take. One morning, Stella is gone. She has moved without telling her sister what is happening. Eventually, Desiree marries and despite having a successful husband she also leaves. After 14 years, Desiree returns to Mallard with her daughter. The only problem is the daughter. Jude is very dark-skinned.
In the meantime, when Stella left New Orleans she sought a new life passing as a white woman. As a very young girl, she had discovered “passing” was easy. It just required confidence and the brassiness to do it.
Stella also marries and has a daughter. Kennedy is a white child with blonde hair. The twins’ daughters could not be more different.
The book spans a forty-year period with sections alternating from Desiree’s story to Stella’s and then to the two daughters of each woman. It is the accidental meeting of the two daughters that the real story begins to unfold. It is a story of racism, violence against women, mysteries, and relationships. Eventually you will know this is a story about mothers and daughters and the lengths one will go for each other.
This book was mesmerizing. It is beautifully written and meanders around the life events of the twins, their mother, and the two daughters. I loved this book! I think you will, too. I have left out a lot of the back-stories of each character. You will relish learning about their husbands, and the lives of their daughters.
My rating system: 5 stars means perfection- the book was written well, held my attention, and I did not want it to end. 4 stars- the book was really good, but I had questions or concerns about parts of it. This might include the way it ended. 3 stars- the book was okay, but I just didn’t like it much. 2 stars- I skimmed most of it. 1 star- I could not finish it.