No one has ever heard of Mallard, much less able to locate this rural Louisiana town on a map. Yet this small southern black community is home to twin sisters Desiree and Stella Vignes. By the age of sixteen the temptations of the wider world prompt the girls to escape to New Orleans. There the sister's lives diverge to follow very different paths, taking one sister back to her hometown with her daughter and the other to the California coast where she hides her racial identity from her husband to live a life of wealthy white privilege. Will the sister's lives ever reunite again and what would the consequences be if their own daughters' worlds were ever to collide? This is a wonderful, compelling story of family, race and a changing society that still resonates today and grips the reader from the opening sentence.
Nicola Kennedy, Dubray Bray
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. Ten 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' story lines 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. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person's decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.
Praise for Brit Bennett:
'A writer to watch' Washington Post
'Bennett allows her characters to follow their worst impulses, and she handles provocative issues with intelligence, empathy and dark humour' New York Times
'A beautifully written, sad and lingering book' Guardian on The Mothers