The Vanishing Half
Author: Brit Bennett
Published: June 2, 2020
Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: August 11-24, 2020
Jessica’s Rating: 3 stars
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. 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’ storylines intersect?
**Unpopular opinion alert**
Everyone seems to be raving about The Vanishing Half, but this is one novel that did not really work for me and I am still not sure why almost a month later. It has an interesting premise: The novel starts out in the 1950s and we have twin girls (Desiree and Stella), both black, but one can pass as white, and she does. But keeping this secret from everyone, including her husband seems to damage Stella. The novel ends in the 1990s with their daughters and lives intersecting.
To see twins live totally different lives despite being the same race during a time of racial changes and the effects of their decisions change everything including their daughters’ lives.
The storyline I was most interested is not even mentioned in the book description, so it came off as a surprise: It dealt with Jude (Desiree’s daughter) and her relationship with Reese, a transgender man. This relationship almost did not make sense with some of the activities they participated in, as the LGBTQ community has not always coincided well/ been inclusive together in the past especially during this time in the past that the novel is based.
Overall, this is one that had promise, but maybe I just listened to the audiobook at the wrong time. Maybe it was the fact that I listened to the audiobook. Some books don’t translate well to audio. I know it has been optioned for TV/Film, so I would give that a try and see what I think.
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Published: June 30, 2020
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 stars
After receiving a frantic letter from her newlywed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find – her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.
Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.
Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.
And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.
This. Cover. It had me from the moment I first saw it. And then I found out that it’s got a haunted house and a gothic tale . . . so I read it. I was indeed creepy! I’ll admit that I had to close my closet door after I finished because I was all freaked out. I’ll admit that at the beginning, I felt a little lost because once Noemí got to the High Place, there were names and relations and people that seemed to just come out of nowhere. It got confusing, but once I pushed through, it all made sense. I was also starting to wonder how the heck everything fit together. Eugenics was just kind of thrown in randomly and I kept waiting to see where Garcia was going with it.
Like I said, by the end, everything was explained and it all made sense. I was very pleased, because y’all know I hate loose ends, but there weren’t any! I liked Noemí as a main character. She gave off the spoiled socialite vibe, but she also had good wits that she used throughout the whole story. I liked how she refused to give up on her cousin, Catalina, even though that would have been the easy thing to do.
I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to give anything away. So I’ll just say that this is a great, creepy, gothic tale that will have you turning pages to see what happens! Perfect for those who like historical fiction with a horror twist!
Author: J. Albert Mann
Published: March 17, 2020
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 stars
The Massachusetts School for the Feeble-Minded is not a happy place. The young women who are already there certainly don’t think so. Not Maxine, who is doing everything she can to protect her younger sister Rose in an institution where vicious attendants and bullying older girls treat them as the morons, imbeciles, and idiots the doctors have deemed them to be. Not Alice, either, who was left there when her brother couldn’t bring himself to support a sister with a club foot. And not London, who has just been dragged there from the best foster situation she’s ever had, thanks to one unexpected, life-altering moment. Each girl is determined to change her fate, no matter what it takes.
The Massachusetts School for the Feeble-Minded. I mean, is anyone surprised? Plus, this cover speaks to my soul. I found it randomly browsing at Books-a-Million, plus Ivan dragged me on a weekend fishing trip out in the humidity; I’m pretty sure I deserved it . . . so I bought it.
I liked how Mann stayed focused on the characters. I was also very impressed by her handle on the thinking of each girl, especially Rose, who has Down Syndrome. The simple fact is that back during that time, when society didn’t know what to do with someone, they sent them to an asylum. We’ve had this conversation before and y’all know that I very much support bringing back long term mental health facilities on a national scale. However, this school is not the way to do it. It echoes Ten Days in a Mad House by Nellie Bly. Doctors seemed to have made stuff up as they went along. While it was the reality, and in many ways it was understandable, these girls refused to accept reality. I liked how they didn’t give up on their dreams of a regular life. They clung to each other and seemed to consciously rise above their diagnoses. That kind of spirit is encouraging and uplifting.
It didn’t end like I expected, but I actually liked the ending. I absolutely recommend this to those who like an emotional read and I would absolutely give this book to older teens. I think they could learn a lot from it.