"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Review and quotes: THE VANISHING HALF


Title:
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Book Beginnings quote:


Friday56 quote:


Summary: Desiree and Stella Vignes were twins living in an all-black community in Mallard, Louisiana, a town so small it wasn't even listed on a state map. The girls were beautiful and exotic and everyone knew and admired them. So it came as a shock to the whole town when the girls disappeared one day, not reappearing until several years later. Desiree hated Mallard and how the small town had nothing to offer her. Stella seemed to like it but decided to leave with her twin when an opportunity arose. In the end, Desiree returned to Mallard after an unhappy marriage but Stella never did. Why? Well it all started one day when Stella was a teenager. She went a nearby town on an errand and decided to look around in a shop normally not open to blacks. She wanted to know if she could pass for white and she could. It was a revelation to her to note the differences in the way people treated her when they thought she was white compared to how they treated her as a black person. Later in New Orleans, Stella was able to get a secretarial position because the hiring person didn't realize she wasn't white. Eventually she started dating her boss and decided to move with him to Boston. But to do this she had to leave behind her twin sister, her whole family in Mallard, and her blackness. 

Both sisters married. Stella married her white boss and had a daughter named Kennedy, moving with her family to L.A. Though Kennedy probed Stella would never tell her anything about her past. Desiree married a black man and had a daughter, Jude, before she left him and moved home to raise her daughter in Mallard. At this point the story shifts the focus from the twins to their daughters. Years later the girls meet each other and Jude figures out that Stella is her long-lost aunt.

Review: Many years ago I read a book by Philip Roth called the Human Stain. In this book one of the characters, a college professor, is passing himself off to be white, though he was born black. Until I read that book I never really even thought of it as a possibility, passing for another race. In Vanishing Half we find Stella completely miserable since she has cut herself off  from her family and her heritage. By extension, Kennedy is also unmoored, not knowing her own history. The book really raises some hard questions about blackness with no easy answers. But in this book at least we find that Desiree and Jude are whole. Stella and Kennedy are better off financially but they seemed to be floating, untethered in a sinking lifeboat, unable to reach shore.

The Vanishing Half is a book club selection for this month and I know what the first question will be. Did I like the book? Honestly I could split the book in half and say I liked the first half a lot and the second half not as much. As soon as the narrative shifted to the daughters the story line seemed to lose some of it's umph. I'll be interested to hear what others thought of the book. Here is the reading guide from Penguin Random House with more discussion questions.

Source: Purchased e-Audiobook from Audible.

For: RHS Book Club, January 2021

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from current book.
Th
e Friday56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56 to share. 

Visit these two websites to participate. Click on links to read quotes from books other people are reading. It is a great way to make blog friends and to get suggestions for new reading material.   
  

-Anne

19 comments:

  1. I agree with you. And I thought the ending was a big fizzle. It didn't bring the story together at all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It kind of shocks me that this book was as popular as it was last year. The story of the twins was pretty compelling but when it moved to their daughters it got pretty murky.

      Delete
    2. More like meandering. Just words that didn't advance the plot or the characters that much. The book lost its way.

      Delete
  2. This starts off with a bang, doesn't it? I love it! Shame that you didn't like the second half nearly as much as the first, though. Book club books always end up being hit or miss with me, too, and I've had that experience with several of our book club choices, too.

    Here's my Friday post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Usually I like the book club selections and I wouldn't say I didn't like this one, I just didn't love it.

      Delete
  3. It's always disappointing when a book has a great beginning, but a weak ending. Still, it looks like this was quite the emotional book to read. The book's beginning definitely catches one's attention.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wow, I must grab this one off my shelf right away! I have it, and now you have definitely piqued my curiosity. Why was I waiting?

    I also enjoyed The Human Stain...the book and the movie!

    Here's mine: “RACHEL TO THE RESCUE”

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you should read this book, then let me know what you think of it. I don't remember particularly liking The Human Stain, but it was intriguing and well-written.

      Delete
  5. Great choice. I've heard lots of praise for this book.

    ReplyDelete
  6. The set up does sound interesting and should generate some conversation. Perhaps she should have interwoven the daughters' stories with the mothers' to create a stronger finish?

    ReplyDelete
  7. The juxtapositions of the two sisters and their two daughters was interesting enough to me to keep me reading. I will be interested to hear what your other club members think of it.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Sounds like an interesting read! Happy weekend!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I think this is a good book for a book group because there is a lot to think about in terms of personal and community choices.

    ReplyDelete
  10. One day I'm going to try this one. Thanks for sharing!

    Lauren @ Always Me

    ReplyDelete
  11. I've heard that a lot about this book...that the first half was really good, and the last half not so much. Sad the ending didn't equal the beginning.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thank you for your review, Anne. I have been wanting to read this one since I first heard about it. I am sorry the second half wasn't better. It'll be interesting to see what I think when I get to it. Have a great weekend!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I loved this on and, the only minor complaint I had was how forced it felt the way the daughters met. I made my tops list for 2020.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I really enjoyed this book and found it interesting to compare to Nella Larsen's "Passing" which has a similar theme. I have friends who didn't like the coincidences in the plot but I really liked the daughters, too.

    ReplyDelete

Your turn. Please comment below.