The Vanishing Half (Brit Bennett)
This is it – this beauty is the book that managed to break my reader's block. I'd heard lots about it and wasn't sure whether this would be the right time for me to sink into its pages – what if being in a weird frame of mind spoiled it for me somehow? But then I reckoned I could do with a present to cheer myself up! Did I love it? Let me count the ways...
It is an irresistible story that takes its readers by the hand and gently leads them along two different but equally gripping paths, following the lives of twin sisters Desiree and Stella. Set in Mallard, a small town in the South of the United States, the two girls experience the brutality of racism first-hand as children. Such a traumatic event has an impact and they end up making wildly different choices when older, which will have ramifications not only for their lives, but also those of their children.
Spanning over a few decades, this book touches on the topics of race, gender, class disparity, family bonds, mother-daughter relationship, violence, the comforting yet stifling embrace of a small community, and so, so much more. Does that sound like too much? Believe me, it isn't. All these different threads are skilfully intertwined and the events flawlessly embedded in the story, so that nothing feels jarring and the years flow smoothly on the pages.
There are different voices and points of views in this book, all observed and recorded with empathy. By the end some of the characters feel like old friends and it is impossible to stop them taking over a little bit of your heart! The language is both poetic and down to earth; so often I stumbled upon real gems: passages I re-read a few times just to let them sink in and settle, so I could savour them properly. Seems fitting to end with one of them: 'A body could be labeled but a person couldn't, and the difference between the two depended on that muscle in your chest. That beloved organ, not sentient, not aware, not feeling, just pumping along, keeping you alive.'
I finished it recently and miss some of the characters already – I thoroughly recommend it!
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