Half a Heart

ISBN: 0312278306
ISBN 13: 9780312278304
By: Rosellen Brown

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About this book

A moving story about estrangement and intimacy, race and privilege, identity and belonging from the bestselling author of Before and AfterMiriam Vener feels trapped in the comfortable white middle-class life she leads with her family in Houston during the 1980s. That life suddenly shatters with the appearance, after almost eighteen years, of Veronica (Ronnee), her biracial daughter born in Mississippi in the sixties when Miriam was a civil rights activist. Hot tempered, sensitive, manipulative and deeply hurt at her mother’s disappearance from her life, Ronnee has been raised by her father, a formerly brilliant college professor who forbade her to see her white mother. Half a Heart charts the emotionally fraught terrain of the mother and daughter’s reunion and Ronnee’s divided sense of self and loyalty. With which family, and which race, does she identify? How does all this affect her relationships with her newly discovered half-sister, her white boyfriend, and the father she is rebelling against? Half a Heart is a searingly honest novel of public and private ideals betrayed and hopes reignited by one of our foremost novelists.

Reader's Thoughts


It took me forever to read this. I struggled to identify with the mother, she never comes clearly into focus. Her daughter, Veronica or Ronnee is far more interesting.


I hate putting down a book when I am halfway done, but I just couldn't get through it. It was just too slow.

Judith Kirscht

A woman dedicated to civil rights takes in the daughter of her conservative sister. This is a story of coping with the polarization of the Sixties and resonates with the ideological split of our own times. It reveals the conflict between motherhood and ideology. I may resonate more deeply because I was raising a family in Ann Arbor during the tumult of those times and know the power of the Sixties to tear apart a family, but it is, I think, a good read for anyone who has faced ideological, cultural, class, or racial conflict within the family.

Heidi Naylor

Reading this now . . . trying to learn craft techniques from Rosellen Brown, whose stories I always respond well to. The story is the reunion of an upscale, white Houston mom with the (half) black daughter she delivered and then relinquished during the turmoil of the civil rights movement. I teach a class in research writing, based in the 1960s, and so this is especially relevant in light of what I'm always "into" from that decade.The pacing is thoughtful (read: on the slow side); this is not a "chase" book, but the writing is lovely and the characters are so real. In one powerful scene, the mom, who's taken the newly met daughter up to her New England summer home for a chance to get reacquainted, runs into a summer friend and DOESN"T INTRODUCE HER DAUGHTER AS HER DAUGHTER. You want to hate her, but her flaws are woven with love and regret and a real desire to reach out to her (quite difficult) daughter, and you end up in sympathy.Another great read from Brown: Before and After. But skip the movie, which was way underdeveloped.


I just lost the long review I wrote so here it is in a nutshell:-a 2.5 rather than a 3 because the writing is long-winded and bogs down the story-premise so interesting, lots of point for discussion for a reading group-really wanted to like this book, but ended up being disappointed

Jean Perry

Tthe 1st one of hers i hd read. It was a good characterization of mother/dgt relationships, black/white relationships, family/friends relationships. Much of the book is written as the introspections of the character being focused on at the moment, rather then dialogue between characters...............There was a lot of back and forth btwn today and 2 decades ago, that's not my favorite process of story-telling........................... There were sev'l places where the author was very verbose, saying in 200 words what could have been said in 50 and i skimmed thru much of that. There were passages that didn't have any effect on the story, IMO, and again i skimmed. A C+ for me.

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