*Photo: Shondaland Website
Last year, many books from recent years spiked up the charts as the most read books of 2022, and one of the books at the top of almost every list last year was The Vanishing Half written by Brit Bennet. This novel is a historical fiction, taking place around the excitingly intertwined lives of seven different people stretching all the way across the country, but centered around two twin girls in a tiny town in Louisiana. When sisters, Stella and Desiree escape their small town for the big city in 1954, fourteen years later, only one returns on her mother’s doorstep, belongings in hand and a young child in tow. The book spans over twenty years, following the exciting lives of the sisters and those whose lives are forever changed because of them.
This novel tackles ideas of race, gender, sexuality and the true meaning of home. Multiple lives weave together and come undone within the pages of this book, each character holding a special relevance to the plot. Bennet’s genius shows itself as we cross the country with her, from New York to Arkansas to California, through the eyes of several, very different, characters. The inclusivity in this novel allows it to be related to by any reader, with characters of all different races, genders, sexualities and backgrounds. Whether interested in medicine or the performing arts, there is something for everyone to be found within these 352 pages.
The story covers so much ground, centered around the main idea of whether or not someone can completely leave their past behind. Some characters are chased with long buried secrets from their past, while others choose to embrace their history and stay comfortable with where they came from. Bennet plays with the concept of how people enter and leave your lives, and how every person has an effect on your journey in life, no matter how minimal. While reading, watch out for small characters or easter eggs that will show to be much more significant later in the book.
The novel wrapped up in an impactful and emotional way, leaving off in an uncertain and thought provoking situation. This book leaves readers thinking about the content for days after reading, and makes for a very powerful subject for discussions about race and ethics. Definitely an important and powerful read, there can be an argument made for why this book could be added to some required reading lists in schools. Whether it be for a book project at school, or because you desire some sort of literature to devour, The Vanishing Half should be next on your list.