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The Vanishing Half

Narrated by: Shayna Small
Length: 11 hrs and 34 mins
Categories: Fiction, Historical
4.5 out of 5 stars (32 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, Southern black community and running away at age 16, it's not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it's everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. 

Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same Southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters' story lines intersect?

Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person's decisions, desires and expectations and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.

©2020 Brit Bennett (P)2020 Hachette Audio UK

Critic Reviews

"A writer to watch." (Washington Post)

What listeners say about The Vanishing Half

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    5 out of 5 stars

Beautiful

Loved it. The story was beautiful, but also heart wrenching. Will definitely be recommending this to friends.

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  • Chantal V
  • 05-07-2020

Excellent Read

Captivating story and eloquently read by voice artist. Imagery easily painted in the reader’s mind

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  • Janice Birnie
  • 14-06-2020

A superbly written and narrated novel.

The Vanishing Half is one of the most thought provoking novels I’ve listened to in a very long time. At this point in history I think it’s a must read/listen. It is a beautifully written story that left this reader deeply moved. It is at times heartbreaking, but it also leaves you hopeful given the strength and resilience of its characters. This story will stay with me always.
The narration was superb.
Highly recommended

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  • Stephanie
  • 23-06-2020

An Important Read

Where to begin with this book? There are so many angles and themes that you could take this from... It has an intriguing opening - a bit like a 'what if' scenario - an unmarked town full of light skinned people who think of themselves as superior to other black people. Then a set of twins, who slip off into the night one summer, leaving no trace. Only for one twin to return as suddenly as she left, followed by a little dark skinned girl...

The multi-generational story really dives into the details of prejudice, systemic racism and most importantly, the often overlooked issue of colorism. It also looks at families, contains complex mother-daughter relationships and in a very understated way also looks at the effect of broken homes and the importance of the father.

The story is fictional but is plotted against important historic events in American history. This framing means that it is realistic, but with a slight displacement that stops it feeling as raw or uncomfortable as some may otherwise have found it. This is with the exception of one violent scene that really saddened me but even this (like most of the harsher scenes in the book) was softened around the edges by being recalled as a memory . It also makes unfamiliar topics completely accessible to anyone through quality story telling (there are two in particular that I have in mind, one is colorism but I don't want to spoil the second for anyone else).

Pacing wise, I found it occasionally a bit slow for my liking, especially towards the end, but there was great tension. If you are the type who likes explosive scenes then you will not find much joy here. The storyline doesn't really carry a shock factor in terms of twists and turns but it certainly takes you by the hand and really makes you think and reflect and savour the range of emotion it induces - it uses your own understandings about family to penetrate your depths.

This is a book that demands attention - I listened to this on Audible and there are several time jumps that are woven together masterfully - you cannot skim read or listen while half concentrated on something else. If your mind wanders for a second, you will find yourself lost. It is worth every drop of your attention though. The reader did a great job too. I usually have to have the ebook in front of me whilst I read or I lose focus but I found myself engaged even though I didn't get the ebook this time.

The ending was satisfying and unhurried too. It was realistic - not so neat and perfect that it felt silly but it still felt complete. I would highly recommend this book, whichever format you choose to read it in.

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  • V. O'Regan
  • 12-06-2020

A powerful story

This was an excellent novel that explored some sensitive issues in an open way. All round excellent

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  • Opeyemi Sobitan
  • 11-08-2020

Great book

The contrasts were amazing, the sad part was that we never saw Stella at the end... That shocked me.

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  • ALICE
  • 04-08-2020

Breathtaking

This book is one of the best ones I listened to in 2020. Touching, moving, emotional, HUMAN. So, so beautiful. and the narration by Shayna Small is PERFECTION. I didn't want it to end and am sad that it did!

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  • Sarah Rayner
  • 04-08-2020

Beautifully written and brilliantly read

This is a stunning novel. The blurb details the premise but narrative is more sweeping and ambitious than it suggests: the author - and narrator - deftly switch characters and across timelines to explore big subjects (race, what makes us who we are, family ties and lost connections and gender). It’s especially prescient in the wake of BLM (but given the speed of the publishing industry must have been written long before the current movement to be out now). One of my favourite books on audio so far. Do listen - it’s a real ‘grower’ and I resoundingly recommend it.

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  • KK
  • 02-08-2020

Had potential but never achieved it

enjoyed the premise of this story very much and it held alot of promise, but unfortunately it did not deliver for me. the start was great, alot of background information and developing of the story, but then midway through for me it lost it's way and never came back. I found the jumping around in years to different characters storyline confusing and hard to follow and I think this spoiled the usual enjoyment of the build up to the end. when the end came it was too quick and left a lot of loose ends. I felt quite let down, it didn't really tie anything up and I think the rushed ending meant that some of the story felt unbelievable. It was a shame as I think the story had a lot of potential.

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  • Cristina Isopescu
  • 01-08-2020

Amazing Book

Breath taking story👍🏻
One of the best book of 2020👑
Its really worth reading it!

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  • Punam Madan Patel
  • 31-07-2020

Superb

Great narration of a very interesting book. Highly recommend this book - found the concept of colorist intriguing. The story of the sisters and their different lives is gripping.

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  • Tracy m
  • 29-07-2020

great

loved it , excellent narration , good storyline . interesting topic ,very engaging all round .

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  • Lya
  • 28-07-2020

An alarmingly brilliant set of journeys

The narrator was irritatingly slow for me but I bumped it up to 1.25 speed which seemed to do the trick. but the story... what can I say? it's a masterpiece, and I don't say that lightly.