The Vanishing Half Book Club Questions and Food Ideas

*If you are new here, WELCOME! For The Vanishing Half, I provide your book club with a brief summary, food ideas, and discussion questions in that order!

The Vanishing Half Book Club Questions and Food Ideas
The Vanishing Half Book Club Questions and Food Ideas

The Vanishing Half, Brit Bennett’s sophomore novel, is a moving saga of a family from rural Louisiana. An exploration of identity, what defines us, and how we allow outside forces to limit us, it is a truly exceptional work.

The novel follows twin black sisters, Stella and Desiree, as they attempt to shed their small town roots and make their own ways in the world. When Stella makes the irrevocable decision to pass as white, it creates a divide between the sisters and in the family that echoes for generations.

As the family grows and changes over time, the twins’ separate lives remain intertwined despite their efforts and the question of what defines a person reverberates through their lives.

A truly bittersweet and thought-provoking novel, it is one of my favorites of the year. I’m honestly surprised it hasn’t won more awards.

If you are looking for a Black Lives Matter book, this would be a great choice. But it honestly goes beyond BLM to cultivate empathy in the reader for all people with the understanding that who we are is much more complicated than anything seen on the surface.

If you never read Brit Bennett’s first novel, The Mothers, check it out. While I read The Mothers when it first came out, I will admit it wasn’t my favorite. I may need to reread in the light of The Vanishing Half. If you felt the same, I still recommend The Vanishing Half. With it, Brit Bennett has risen to an astonishing new level in my book.

The Vanishing Half

I’ve provided book club questions and delicious food ideas for The Vanishing Half, so if you are looking for book club ideas and more, keep reading!

Check out these fun bookish gadgets…

Here’s a brief summary of The Vanishing Half:

From the Publisher: “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.”

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The Vanishing Half Book Club Questions and Food Ideas
The Vanishing Half Book Club Questions and Food Ideas

For The Vanishing Half Food Ideas:

Like any good novel set in the South, you can expect plenty of food for the soul mentioned. But, since the novel also has parts in almost every other area of America, there’s a great array of options.

Here are a few of the food ideas from the pages of The Vanishing Half:

  • Chapter 1 – Lou’s Egg House – Lou reports one of the Vignes’ twins is back – eggs and grits and Desiree returns home – cornbread and milk
  • Chapter 2 – Desiree and Early meet – he leaves fruit at her door (figs, peaches, blackberries, nectarines, blueberries, etc)
  • Chapter 6 – Jude takes a catering job – bacon-wrapped dates, crab salad, oysters, water crackers, olives, cocktails
  • Chapter 8 – Stella bakes a lemon cake with vanilla icing as an apology to Loretta (try these cakes I made for The Great Gatsby!)
  • Chapter 9 – Blake takes Stella on their first lunch to Antoine’s for oysters and alligator soup
  • Chapter 10 – Jude working at Park’s restaurant – pork belly, shrimp, sticky rice cakes
  • Chapter 13 – Mr. Park feeds Jude and Reese bulgogi after the confrontation with Stella
  • Chapter 14 – Kennedy meets Frantz over ginger beer at a party
  • Chapter 16 – Desiree visits Jude and Reese in Minneapolis and cooks shrimp creole and rice and, later, Desiree serves fried fish and gin at The Reunion
  • Chapter 17- Jude and Desiree make potato salad before the service

While I was reading, the lemon cake Stella bakes for Loretta, the fried fish and gin dinner at “The Reunion,” and the sweet moment between Jude and Desiree as they make potato salad all stood out to me. Sound like a great menu for a book club meeting? It does to me!

Whether you choose something from this list or try your own option, I hope these food ideas will get your creative juices flowing to host your book club for The Vanishing Half!

The Vanishing Half Book Club Questions and Food Ideas
The Vanishing Half Book Club Questions and Food Ideas

The Vanishing Half Book Club Activity Idea:

The characters in the book struggle with identity, especially in the face of real or perceived prejudices. Consider taking the time to do an empathy-cultivating activity.

One idea, try out these cards from TableTopics. They give players difficult scenarios to talk through and allow them the opportunity to put themselves in someone else’s shoes.

TableTopics What Would You Do?

P.S. There’s a book club version too!

TableTopics Book Club

The Vanishing Half Book Club Questions:

*WARNING: May contain spoilers!

  1. Foreseeing their future in Mallard, Desiree and Stella decide to leave town together. Eventually, Stella decides to leave her old identity as well. Why do you think she felt the need to completely cut ties with Mallard despite the town’s obsession with whiteness?
  2. Why do you think the people of Mallard were so obsessed with being a town of light colored black people? How did you feel about this as a reader? Do you have any personal experience with such nuanced prejudices?
  3. In the novel, Reese and Stella both “passover,” but in two different ways. How were their transitions similar and how were they different? Discuss how their new identities affected current and past relationships, jobs, and more.
  4. Why do you think Stella felt it necessary to leave Desiree without a goodbye? Do you think there was a way for Stella to have a relationship with her family or not? Why?
  5. Stella cleaves to a white man to try to become more of herself, while Desiree finds the darkest man she can to marry. What do you think the sisters were truly longing for in attaching to these two very different men?
  6. Jude and Kennedy are daughters of twin sisters. However, they couldn’t be more different. Jude is often described as having incredibly dark skin, whereas Kennedy has no idea about her black heritage. Despite facing set backs due to prejudice, Jude is by many accounts more successful in life. Discuss the differences between the girls and why you think Jude overcomes while Kennedy wastes her opportunities.
  7. Despite the fact that many of the characters in the book cut ties with their home and family in one way or another, those things are constantly on their minds. Do you think any of them ever truly leave their pasts behind (even Stella)? Do you think that completely starting over (forgetting your past) is really possible?
  8. Jude hides the fact that she’s found Stella, Stella hides her true identity from Kennedy, Blake and Loretta, Reese hides his gender, and Early hides Desiree’s location from Sam. Discuss how these lies affected each relationship. Do you think all, some, or none of these lies were permissible?
  9. In the end, Desiree leaves Mallard for good, too. Why do you think she decided to move after staying for so long?
  10. Have you read The Mothers by Brit Bennett? How did this novel compare? Which did you like better?

Have you read The Vanishing Half? What did you think? Did it satisfy you or were you left wishing for more? What are some similar books you’ve read?

Until next time, Happy Reading!

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The Vanishing Half Book Club Questions and Food Ideas
The Vanishing Half Book Club Questions and Food Ideas

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