Tag Archives: Riverhead

Review: The Vanishing Half

The Vanishing Half

The Vanishing Half
By Brit Bennett
Riverhead Books, 9780525536291, June 2020, 352pp.

The Short of It:

The Vanishing Half is a book that must be discussed.

The Rest of It:

Stella and Desiree are twins, living in the small (fictional) town of Mallard, Louisiana. This town is known for its black, light-skinned inhabitants. As young children, they witness the murder of their father by a group of angry white men, and from that point on, the girls, each affected in different ways, step out of their familiar surroundings to begin lives outside of Mallard.

At first, they do this together. Taking odd jobs, sleeping on floors and eventually making a place of their own to call home. But Stella wants more and eventually leaves Desiree behind to pursue what she feels is a better life. A life that should not be held from her, just because she’s black. Desiree is hurt by the abandonment but at the time, doesn’t fully understand Stella’s choices. All she wants throughout the years is to find her sister once again.

This story is told in several parts and jumps into the present day as we meet Jude and Kennedy, the children of Desiree and Stella. We also meet their significant others and as readers, we are brought into Stella’s world as she makes the decision to pass for white. One day, Stella is mistaken for white and just goes along with  it. The concept of “passing” is one that affects more than just Stella as the story unfolds.

The Vanishing Half is a story about identity. Racial identity as well as gender identity (one of the characters, one of my favorite characters is transgendered). These characters are trying to find their way and their true selves and not without a lot of struggle. Some of Stella’s choices will anger you but Bennett wrote her in such a way, that you can’t hold her choices against her. She feels regret for her decisions but as readers we also see why she made these decisions to begin with.

I really liked how the story was structured and how balanced it was. I appreciated the decision to move the characters to California, particularly Los Angeles because as I can tell you, Los Angeles is accepting of a lot and it’s a place where people find themselves all the time. People can be whatever they want here, so having some of the story set in Los Angeles made sense. I really enjoyed the writing and I was lucky enough to be told about the Los Angeles Times Book Club interview with Bennett right after finishing the book so I got to hear her take on the book and it was just a great talk.

I highly recommend The Vanishing Half. Now, I really want to read her first book, The Mothers.

This book completes my summer reading list!

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: City of Girls

City of Girls

City of Girls
By Elizabeth Gilbert
Riverhead Books, 9781594634734, June 2019, 480pp.

The Short of It:

It has all the glitter of Broadway but was a tad too long for my distracted brain.

The Rest of It:

I must start with this. I really liked this book. The subject matter, a struggling New York theater, really appealed to me.

The story opens with Vivian Morris explaining to a young woman named Angela, what exactly went down in New York City, circa 1940, and how she came to know her father, Frank. In telling her story, Vivian goes back to when she was a 19-year-old college dropout. Well-to-do, but without goals. She goes to live with her Aunt Peg, who happens to own a failing theatre company and there she discovers who she really is.

I loved the setting so much. Gilbert does an excellent job of setting the stage. A dusty old theatre, limited talent, little to no money to put on anything other than the formulaic shows that only the locals care to see. Vivian has a knack for costuming and finds herself in the thick of it when a famous actress decides to take up residence at the theatre. Edna, is aging but still as glamorous as can be. Vivian is completely smitten with her so when Pam decides to build an entire show around Edna, Vivian creates the most beautiful costumes for her, but a bad decision down the line changes everything and forces Vivian to reflect on her recent actions.

Vivian’s youth and her affinity for hanging out with one particular showgirl gets her into some trouble. There’s a lot of drinking and philandering and although the book is titled City of Girls, it could easily be titled City of WILD Girls. Their antics are amusing, until they’re not.

A good 100 pages could have been cut from this book but if you were a theatre kid or spend a lot of time in theatre now, as I do, you will appreciate this story and enjoy it. The characters leap off the page and are quite memorable. Overall I enjoyed I enjoyed it very much.

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.