Book Review

By Shaun Lunga

The Vanishing Half 

Author: Brit Bennette

Was shortlisted for the “Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2021, one of the greatest annual, international celebrations of women’s creativity– honours outstanding, ambitious, original fiction written in English by women from anywhere in the world. The prize recognises women in fiction, stories that are socially conscious, a book that change the world or your outlook of the world. Literary fiction. The 2020 Booker Prize Winner Bernadine Evaristo described this book as “utterly mesmerising… literary fair, surprises with its breath – taking plot twist, delights with its psychological insight, and challenges us to consider the corrupting consequences of racism in different communities and individual lives.

ISBN:  978 034 970 1479  

“She was always afraid that they might read her lie, somehow, on her naked body. Maybe against white sheets, her   skin would look darker, or maybe she would just feel different once he was inside of her, If nakedness would not reveal who you were, then what would?”

I absolutely loved his book, it reminded of a book that I once read by Yaa Gyasi – “Homegoing,” a book about sisterhood, lineage from slavery, civil war until today- describes Black lives and different forms of violence placed on Black people. This Book  explores white passing, colourism, black-on-black violence, in terms of the narratives structure, Ms Bennette does this so beautifully, as she draws  you into the lives of Stella and Desiree  identical twins, light skinned, growing up together in a small Southern black community from the 1960’s – where colour mattered, a nigga was not seen as an equal, or a human being, until, at the age of sixteen, they ran away…

Years later, everything about their lives is different: their families, communities, and racial identities, one sister lives with her Black daughter in the Southern town she once tried to escape. The other sister secretly passes as white, and her husband knows nothing of her past. Still, separated by distance away and with many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen in the next generation? When their own daughters’ lives intersect?

Brit Bennett really had me at the fingertips with this story, at times I was so bewitched, and entertained, with strong characters and clear characterisation, some characters disappeared too soon. I wanted them to stay longer, like Early, his role in the narrative is crucial as he makes question morality and love. The book poses several questions on choosing oneself security. The sacrifice? How everything is a sacrifice, you get what you want in life. But it is never enough, how one can reimagine oneself at a cost family? The book is a socially conscious. It provokes feelings of agitations, hope, drive, passion, love, anger, black joy… and if you didn’t know whiteness is a currency till this day, you’ll come out having a better understanding of “white privilege,” a play on family, sisterhood, family denial. Really compelling introspective generational tale.

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