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Narrator Rating (118)

The Vanishing Half: A Novel

Unabridged Audio Book

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Shayna Small

11 Hours 34 Minutes

Penguin Audio

June 2020

Audio Book Summary





“Bennett’s tone and style recalls James Baldwin and Jacqueline Woodson, but it’s especially reminiscent of Toni Morrison’s 1970 debut novel, The Bluest Eye.” —Kiley Reid, Wall Street Journal 

“A story of absolute, universal timelessness …For any era, it's an accomplished, affecting novel. For this moment, it's piercing, subtly wending its way toward questions about who we are and who we want to be….” – Entertainment Weekly

From The New York Times-bestselling author of The Mothers, a stunning new novel about twin sisters, inseparable as children, who ultimately choose to live in two very different worlds, one black and one white.

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, 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. Many 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' storylines 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.

As with her New York Times-bestselling debut The Mothers, Brit Bennett offers an engrossing page-turner about family and relationships that is immersive and provocative, compassionate and wise.

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  • Gina M.

    Boring! Same old tired story. Black, white, male, female, gay, rich, poor, beautiful, ugly, healthy, sick .... accept yourself, don’t lie, be kind! I fast forwarded through this after 3/4ths. Very tedious.

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  • Charlene C.

    This was a POWERFUL story! Leaves you with much to think about.

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  • Anonymous

    A well constructed read. I particularly appreciated the use of overlapping time lines woven together to create the story. It worked well in driving the separate but related narratives.

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  • Judy D.

    This was a thought-provoking story that started out strong, and even though I read the whole book, it got less interesting, because it felt to me that some of the key points (and important points) were left hanging, instead of having a strong action and wrap up that satisfies the character's point being made... and the reader's interest and curiosity! Too bad, because overall it was well written and interesting.

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  • Adrienne R.

    Excellent read from beginning to end. Narrator did a wonderful job with the voices.

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  • Hailey Moen

    The Vanishing Half was a really awesome book Britt Bennett did a really nice job with the character development along with transitioning between the different eras along with the flash backs. I also really liked how it talked about major issues like abuse, racism, segregation, just to name a few. It really opened my eyes and me feel more educated. Shayna Small did an awesome job with the narrating. She kept it very interesting by doing accents with different characters to make them come to life. Would highly recommend this book!

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  • Darene F.

    This book stirred vague memories of my childhood in Arkansas in the 1960’s. I wasn’t totally aware of the racialism at the time - as I did not recognize racialism. Now looking back, I can remember seeing much of the prejudice and injustice presented in this story. The characters seem very real and true to their time. The south was often cruel and demeaning to anyone of color- both intentionally and at times unintentionally. So when Stella decided to “pass” as white, it was impossible for her to do so safely and successfully without abandoning her family. She saw a rare chance to have a better life and seized it. At that moment, she probably had not given full consideration to how costly this decision would be for the rest of her life for herself and many others. Mallard was populated by a society of people who claimed being black, yet required the members to appear light skinned or “white” to be accepted and they remained to themselves except to find work. For this reason, Mallard was a very difficult and uncomfortable place for Jude, the dark skinned child of Desiree, to grow up. Being “different” did prepare Jude to accept Reese, formerly Therese, unconditionally, as he was. The town Mallard was based on a few small towns in Louisiana with the same light skinned populations. This book kept my interest all the way to the end. I enjoyed the narrator’s ability to bring different voices to the different characters. This book is not only entertaining, but thought provoking. For example, how do we mask, confuse, hide, accept or deny our own true identities? Great book to read for a book club discussion or for your own interest.

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  • Nadia T.

    I loved every moment of this great work. Phenomenal and touching.

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  • Anonymous

    One of the best books i have ever read i will recommend to whoever want something new and good

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  • K O.

    This story made me sad. I was very bothered by the fact that the color of skin impacted the lives of the main characters in every aspect of their lives. The color of skin changed their lives in almost every instance.

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