Claire's Reviews > The Vanishing Half

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
2528841
's review

it was amazing
bookshelves: fiction

I think this is one of the most popular reads of 2020 and it's also on the Dublin Literary Award longlist 2021 a recognition of the votes of libraries and readers from around the world.

I thought initially it was a novel about 'passing', something similar to Nella Larsen's novel Passing (1929) that I read last year, a subject that at the time of Larsen's book, there were literally hundreds of books coming out about the subject.

But Brit Bennett's novel, rather than focus just on 'passing' looks at all the ways people hide things about themselves, keep secrets and the impact that has not just on themselves but on others around them. About the many ways one can lose oneself.

It is also a reflection on the conditional aspirations of the white middle class, once you've entered this milieu, there are certain expectations, invisible rules, codes of conduct, and when children dare to want to be themselves and be someone that doesn't fit into that conventional idea of success, many parents will try everything they can to manipulate, entice or bribe them into fulfilling those expectations.
"Why can't you just be yurself?" Stella asked once.
"Maybe I don't know who that is," her daughter shot back. And Stella understood, she did. That was the thrill of youth, the idea that you could be anyone. That was what had captured her in the charm shop, all those years ago. Then adulthood came, your choices solidifying, and you realise that everything you are had been set in motion years before. The rest was aftermath. So she understood why her daughter was searching for a self, and she even blamed herself for it.


Each of the four main characters, twin sisters Desiree and Stella, and their children are given significant space to explore their worlds and encounters and repercussions of the decisions either they make or are made for them.

And Early, a wonderful character when we first meet him and his gifts of fruit, his strange job hunting people who have run, a product of his own story of having been abandoned by his parents and his ability to be the carer, despite his never quite feeling at home anywhere.
The key to staying lost was to never love anything. Time and time again, Early was amazed by what a running man came back for. Women, mostly.


On their journeys, the narrative and characters touch on a range of societal issues such as sexual abuse, racism, poverty, abandonment, domestic violence, sexism, gender fluidity, identity, silencing, dementia.

It's structured in parts and moves back and forth in time, enabling a slow reveal of the questions built up in the reader's mind. Bennett uses an effective way of beginning a dialogue between characters that opens into a stream of consciousness narrative and circles back to the close of the dialogue. Beautifully executed and paced,

It's a book you can't wait to get back to and can in no way predict the outcome, or even understand the choices, except that they represent aspects of the many different type of people in American society today.
There were many ways to be alienated from someone, few to actually belong.


I loved it and can't wait to read her debut novel and see what she comes up with next.
10 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Vanishing Half.
Sign In »

Quotes Claire Liked

Brit Bennett
“There were many ways to be alienated from someone, few to actually belong.”
Brit Bennett, The Vanishing Half

Brit Bennett
“Why can’t you just be yourself?” Stella asked once.
“Maybe I don’t know who that is,” her daughter shot back. And Stella understood, she did. That was the thrill of youth, the idea that you could be anyone. That was what had captured her in the charm shop, all those years ago. Then adulthood came, your choices solidifying, and you realize that everything you are had been set in motion years before. The rest was aftermath. So she understood why her daughter was searching for a self, and she even blamed herself for it.”
Brit Bennett, The Vanishing Half

Brit Bennett
“The key to staying lost was to never love anything.”
Brit Bennett, The Vanishing Half

Brit Bennett
“She hadn't realized how long it takes to become somebody else, or how lonely it can be living in a world not meant for you.”
Brit Bennett, The Vanishing Half

Brit Bennett
“That was the thrill of youth, the idea that you could be anyone. That was what had captured her in the charm shop, all those years ago. Then adulthood came, your choices solidifying, and you realize that everything you are had been set in motion years before. The rest was aftermath.”
Brit Bennett, The Vanishing Half


Reading Progress

February 23, 2021 – Started Reading
February 23, 2021 – Shelved
February 23, 2021 – Shelved as: fiction
February 24, 2021 –
page 120
34.99% "Really enjoying this, a natural storyteller."
February 25, 2021 –
page 300
87.46% "Her characters take you inside and both explore and challenge so many perspectives, riveting reading and do glad I have another of her novels to read."
February 26, 2021 – Finished Reading

No comments have been added yet.