A review by bethsbookshelf
The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett
- Plot- or character-driven? Character
- Strong character development? Yes
- Loveable characters? Yes
- Diverse cast of characters? Yes
- Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes
Wow - I loved, loved, loved this book.
Things I loved:
🪴 The writing!! The first thing that pulled me in was the writing. From the first page, I was hooked. From the first chapter, I was emotionally invested. As they say, the characters leaped off the page, and I felt like I was really living their lives with them. The writing is simple, yet rich, and has some stunning and beautiful details. I underlined so many quotes. For instance, "Now, this was comfort - a languid morning spent floating across a swimming pool, a two-story house with cabinets always filled with food, a chestful of toys for her daughter, a bookshelf that held an entire encyclopedia set. This was comfort, no longer wanting anything."
🪴 Speaking of the characters, they were vivid and dimensional and complex and somehow yet, lovable. I understood all of their reasoning and decisions; their motivations and traumas were so thorough. I loved how they all contrasted each other and complemented each other at the same time. The entire cast was so great, even the minor side characters. I could seriously read a whole series about each character.
🪴 The sisterhood relationship between Desiree and Stella. They were polar opposites, but not in a way that felt lazy or stereotypical. One was loud, one was quiet, but they changed and shifted as time moved along. Their relationship was codependent yet completely independent at the same time. They longed for each other and needed each other but also required space from one another to grow. Despite them being apart for most of the book, as a reader, you feel like you're reading about them side by side. The author so fluidly flipped between the two in a way that felt so natural yet so fitting to the story.
🪴 The exploration and portrayal of race. This book exposes both race and what it means to be a victim of it. But it also exposes colourism within the Black community and how people treat each other depending on the various skin tones. Stella and Desiree are both light-skinned Black women with the possibility to pass as white. Stella does, but Desiree doesn't. I can understand both women. One wants to escape racism and live a privileged life; the other wants to be true to herself. Both are valid, and it's racism's fault that this difficult choice exists in the first place. At the end of the day, identity is something we can control slightly, but our roots and true selves will always squeeze through the cracks our masks leave behind.
🪴 The theme of motherhood. Stella and Desiree aren't perfect mothers, but the theme of nature vs. nurture is so poignant yet subtle. I really liked taking notes on this throughout and noticing little things the author did to portray this.
I do think everyone will love something about this book. I hope you pick it up!
Graphic: Sexual assault, Classism, Death, Death of parent, Domestic abuse, Emotional abuse, Grief, Hate crime, Injury/injury detail, Murder, Physical abuse, Racial slurs, Racism, Sexual content, Toxic friendship, Toxic relationship, and Transphobia