The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
If you have been anywhere near Bookstagram this month, you will likely have seen or heard a lot about The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett.
I recently started a book club and we chose this as our first read, interestingly the opinion of myself and the others in the book club seemed to differ quite a lot from what I've seen everyone else say.
The book is highly praised and I do definitely think it's a well written and engaging book which does touch on a lot of social issues, however I wouldn't rave about this book the way I have seen others do.
Stella and Desiree Vignes disappeared from the town nobody has heard of called Mallard when they were just 16. They are twins who leave their hometown and their mother in a pursuit of excitement and seeing the world. As the plot goes on we learn more about their childhood, their adulthood, the twins as siblings and as individual people too. The narrative spans over a few years and highlights different points in both their lives.
I can't remember what my final mark on Goodreads was but on reflection this book was about a 3.5 for me. It started so fast-paced and kept me hooked on every word which I loved and if this dynamic had continued throughout the book then I definitely would of marked it higher. However, as the book continued the pace and plot stagnated a little - often focusing on parts that I found quite irrelevant to the overall storyline.
I felt at certain parts in the book that it was too focused on the daughters of Stella and Desiree - I've been trying to piece this together since I read it as to why the direction would suddenly shift but I can't seem to put my finger on it.
I can't explain one of my key flaws of the book without a spoiler warning but what I will say is that a certain event is anticipated throughout the whole book, it's built up with so much tension and then when it finally happens you're kind of left feeling like "was that it?".
As mentioned earlier, the book does comment on issues that we face in society today by briefly touching on transgender relationships, class, identity and race. I appreciate that at times reading about these topics in a way that is 'heavy' or 'overwhelming' can be a lot to digest, however, it felt like Bennett sort of skimmed past these ideas - mentioning them in passing but not really elaborating on what it means to the characters. This could be a reflection on how society have looked past these issues for years - I don't know for sure but regardless as a reader it can be frustrating.
The general consensus of myself and the others in the book club is that it felt as though Bennett had so much she wanted to say and started off strong with it all but had the attention on so many issues that it was split too thin across the book.
However, the book did have some really beautiful moments that really made me pause. Some of the shortest lines in this book delivered such a punch that I thought about it for days later.
"She hadn't realised how long it takes to become somebody else, or how lonely it can be living in a world not meant for you."
"People thought that being one of a kind made you special. No, it just made you lonely. What was special was belonging with someone else."
"This big ol' world and we only get to go through it once. The saddest thing there is, you ask me."
"A body could be labelled but a person couldn't, and the difference between the two depended on that muscle in your chest."
I would definitely recommend this book to someone as I do think it was an enjoyable read and many people praise this book - I don't dislike it but it's also not one of my new favourite books.
Have you read The Vanishing Half? Let me know over on my social!