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Book Review

Book Reviews

1/6/2021

By Brit Bennett
Riverhead Books
Pub Date: June 2, 2020
$27
352 pages

‘The Vanishing Half’

Desiree and Stella Vignes are inseparable identical twins growing up in the mid-20th century in a tiny town in Louisiana. As children, they witness the racially motivated murder of their father and, as teenagers, escape the town to New Orleans, leaving no trace.

After almost accidentally passing for white, Stella finds herself stuck in a lie by the untold benefit that seems to come naturally to a white woman. To maintain that good fortune, she must walk away from her past life including her mother and beloved twin.

The pain of separation is grueling for both sisters. Desiree doesn’t know how or why her sister disappeared or that she is passing for white. Stella misses Desiree terribly but lives with the knowledge that revealing the truth will completely dismantle the privileged life she has built. When observing her comfortable life compared to that of her twin sister, it is hard to blame her.

This is the kind of stunning novel that is hard to forget and a compelling indictment of the racism shaping the lives of every character. ♦

HIV

— Review by Sally Wisdom

By Kevin Wilson
Ecco
Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020
$16.99
288 pages

‘Nothing to See Here’

Lillian and Madison, once roommates at an exclusive boarding school, are living very different lives. Madison, a child of privilege, is married to a wealthy senator. Lillian is living in her mother’s attic and working a low-wage job. Through letters, they have stayed in touch in spite of the fact that Lillian, whose only apparent break in life had been earning a scholarship to the school, was expelled after taking the blame for Madison’s transgression.

When Madison offers her a job taking care of the senator’s 10-year-old twins following the death of their mother, Lillian has little to lose. The twins, Madison tells her, have an odd “affliction” which, should it come to light, could upend the senator’s political ambitions. Under certain conditions, the twins catch fire.

While all this may sound too weird, the novel is altogether original and engaging. Readers can’t help but cheer for Lillian as she goes from apathetic screw-up to fierce champion of the twins while Madison and her husband reinforce every negative stereotype of an ambitious politician and spouse. ♦

— Review by Sally Wisdom

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