Archive for August, 2020

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

August 27, 2020


This is a rich, complex family saga that weaves issues of racism, colorism, passing, classism, and gender identity, into the story of identical twins, Desiree and Stella. Born in the 1940s in Mallard, Louisiana, a small town populated entirely by light-skinned Black people, the twins run away at age 16 to start their lives over, escaping the poverty of their circumstances, and reeling from the tragedy they witness when their father is murdered by white men from surrounding towns. The book follows the different paths the twins’ lives take after Stella decides to pass as white. There is a slightly dreamy, cinematic quality to the way the book is written that I found very compelling. It felt at times like watching a movie, in the sense that you experience the characters from a bit of a distance. The structure of the book contributed to this as well. While the book is very compassionate towards all four of the major characters – the twins and their daughters – it keeps the reader at a slight remove by switching from one character’s life to the next to the point where it almost feels like you’re abandoning the character you’ve just gotten to know. This all works to really accentuate the loneliness and isolation of the characters, and makes you feel the toll that their secrets and experiences have taken on them. It’s really a fascinating and powerful book. You can find The Vanishing Half in the library’s catalog, and on Libby/Overdrive.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Things in Jars, by Jess Kidd

August 22, 2020


After going through an obsessive Agatha Christie and Ellery Queen phase in high school, I gave up on mysteries. The police procedural just didn’t work for me. Even the amateur (or non-) sleuth characters didn’t grab me.

Somehow recently I have rediscovered some off-the-beaten path mysteries. They are definitely “I’m not an actual detective, but I am a busybody or amateur/under the radar investigator” books but at the same time they include some magical realism and/or very quirky characters and/or a setting that is compelling.

This book by Jess Kidd is an amazing part of this genre!!! I loved it from start to finish. You can read summaries in other reviews or in the description here on Goodreads so I won’t go into that. I will just say that a few of the things that made this book a favorite are:
–> The characters of Ruby (tattooed former boxer ghost), Cora (seven-foot tall, former circus star housekeeper), Christabel (mysterious, freak of nature – or supernature), and more;
–> The details about investigator Bridie Devine (her ugly bonnet, her strange childhood, her medical and pharmacological knowledge, her smoking);
–> And, the city: Victorian London – disgusting, dangerous, exciting. And the countryside – disgusting (behavior), dangerous, exciting.

I immediately read Jess Kidd’s other novel, “Himself,” when I finished “Things in Jars.” I can’t wait to read her next book!

Find “Things in Jars” in our catalog