As one of the top most anticipated books of this year, Brit Bennett strikes once again with her second novel “The Vanishing Half.” Again we get to experience her well thought out character development in a four part series of events that ties together views of colorism, racism, gender identity, culture shocks, family ties, and stereotypes. Bennett style of writing embraces and targets head on past and present issues with transparency all while compelling the reader to continue to turn the pages. This is one to keep you on the edge of your seat or however or wherever your reading space is. Movie/ TV Show worthy indeed.
“In the dark everyone was the same color.”
Bennett’s well developed character introductions is unique and what I consider a masterpiece. We see the main characters the Vignes twin sisters; Desiree and Stella, their daughters Jude and Kennedy , Adele Vignes , Reese and Early. Each having their own compelling story that leaves the reader wondering what is the completion of that character’s life. The time period in which the book sets it’s settings in are periods of unfortunate racism and colorism . Each issue resonated in each four part segment whether in the town of Mallard or all the way across the country in Los Angeles. The fact of the matter is that it was and IS still a major fault in this country. Doing anything while “black” was just not acceptable and being “darkskin” as well was just the topping of the cake. The stigma that laid upon black people during this time was the idea that they can be somewhat accepted or live a better life if they possessed lighter/fair skin, but still saw death at the hands of white men. So now Jude is introduced, this “blue black “ child who creates a culture shock in a town who only knew of one skin tone but in reality was no different from the white race that rejected them. How can the same fault rest upon our “own people”? Just like asking how can we continue to kill each other of the same race ? It just doesn’t add up. Let’s get it together black folk.
Family ties becomes a key revelation in the understanding of the author’s storyline. She unravels the relationship between mother and daughter in different sequence of events. Jude and Desiree relationship seems to be one of the lesser problematic ties. Although significantly different than her mother and from others around her Jude accepts her family background and loves with honoring their legacy with her mother. They both are able to trust one another enough to release each other to live their own life. On the other hand there is Stella and Kennedy’s relationship that is evolved on lies and secrets. You have the daughter who wants to know the true identity and history of her mother and family but a mother who is satisfied with living a lie and having her daughter live it out with her. They build a rocky relationship out of regret, remorse, confusion, terror and become strangers . Strangers as in the Vignes Twins.
Known identity seems to reveal and vanish all at the same time within this book. With Stella’s vanishing identity, she creates herself to be a completely different person, a white woman. Her original identity vanished and she became comfortable disappearing in the lie she had created even with the truth beating her right in her face. Although Desiree tried to establish her new identity she eventually came back into a stagnant identity returning back to Mallard and living her life just like she never left. It seems as though the character Jude is the only one who knows who she is and lives out her truth. Opposite of her is Kennedy with her confused identity. She spent her life trying to create a new person, a different background , a different story wherever she found herself. Every location across the country she established a different identity. I would say she was undoubtedly confused. Reese, known as the underdeveloped character, gives us a transformed identity. Born one gender then transforms into the opposite, producing an completely new person he identifies as. I wish we could have gotten more of Reese’s story and of his transformation but is left vague. Maybe we will see more from the very hopeful production of a TV show series.
For me this was a well deserved five star read. Brit Bennet got herself a spot on my all time favorite authors list. From “The Mothers” to “The Vanishing Half,” she anticipates what her readers want and transfers it into the most compelling and close to real stories. She encourages me to read outside my comfort and be as expressive as I can be in what I am passionate about. Thank you Ms. Bennett for your continued form of expression for generations and generations to come.