Book Club: Join ‘The Vanishing Half’ live chat
Good morning, and welcome to the L.A. Times Book Club newsletter.
Brit Bennett opens “The Vanishing Half,” her novel about twin sisters Stella and Desiree, in rural Louisiana. Then she moves the narrative west to Los Angeles, long an outpost for reinvention and myth-making.
“Part of my thinking was here was a place where Stella could show up that would be so completely different from where she left,” Bennett said of her bestseller, the subject of a Hollywood bidding war and this month’s L.A. Times Book Club pick.
Touching on themes of race, identity, love and empathy, “The Vanishing Half” explores deep fissures within a family cleaved by the choices the twin sisters make when they break away. Stella’s break is especially dramatic; she cuts all ties with her Black family and passes as white in her new life. What both sisters find, Bennett writes early in the story: “You can escape a town, but you cannot escape blood.”
The book’s Southern California setting also gives Bennett space to challenge her other characters, including both sisters’ college-age daughters, who cross paths for the first time. “L.A. was a place where all of the other characters could collide,” Bennett said in a recent interview.
The author of a previous bestseller, “The Mothers,” Bennett grew up in Oceanside, graduated from Stanford University and earned her MFA in fiction at the University of Michigan. When she published her second novel in June, “The Vanishing Half” quickly dominated bestseller lists. After an auction with 17 bidders, HBO snapped up the book for a limited TV series.
Bennett joins book club readers Aug. 25 for a conversation with Times writer Carla Hall. The virtual book talk starts at 6 p.m. Pacific Time and will be livestreamed on The Times Facebook Page, YouTube and on Twitter. Sign up here for a reminder.
While you read this month’s book, join the conversation on the book club’s Facebook Page.
What questions do you have for Brit Bennett about “The Vanishing Half?” Share them before the event by messaging firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Festival update: The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books opens a virtual chapter this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. After being postponed from April to October, the annual festival will take place online starting Oct. 18. The Times will host author panels and readings and other events over four weeks instead of a single weekend. The lineup will be announced next month.
Swimming the world: If you missed our July meetup with Bonnie Tsui, author of “Why We Swim,” and long-distance swimmer Lynne Cox, you can watch it at latimes.com. Tsui’s book takes readers on a trip through time and around the globe, from the California coast to Iceland’s swim culture to “the Hawaii” of the South China Sea. Cox is the author of “Swimming to Antarctica” and other books. Watch them now.
More adventures: Andrew Davis, who directed “The Fugitive” starring Harrison Ford, says one of his favorite projects was bringing Louis Sachar’s children’s book “Holes” to the big screen. On Thursday he told film critic Justin Chang that his post-pandemic projects will include a “Treasure Island” interpretation — “once this thing blows over.” Watch Davis and Chang on the Ultimate Summer Movie Showdown.
L.A. moments: Reviewer Nathan Deuel digs into “Holyland” author D.J. Waldie’s new collection, “Becoming Los Angeles,” and finds much to like. “Part of Waldie’s successful formula,” he says, “is to balance sweeping historical sketches with little pocket stories, sometimes composite, always clever, bringing even familiar events to brighter life.”
Griffith Park gets the book it deserves. Take a hike with author Casey Schreiner, who has written “Discovering Griffith Park,” a detailed guidebook for one of the nation’s largest city parks. Says reviewer Nate Rogers: “And what a valuable companion it’s proved to be: During the COVID-19 pandemic, hiking has remained one of the few leisure activities fully permitted in the city, as long as you bring a mask and keep your distance.”
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