Reviewed by Bev Scott
Riveting from beginning to end, The Vanishing Half tells the story of identical twins who grow up in a small southern black community, called Mallard. Mallard is such a small town that it is not even on the map. However, it is a town founded for light-skinned African Americans. After running away together at age sixteen, the sisters’ lives diverge–their identities, their daily lives, and their marriages.
One twin, Stella, goes to California and passes as white. Her husband and her blue-eyed, blond daughter have no idea about the big lie of Stella’s life. The other twin, Desiree marries a dark-skinned man who abuses her. She escapes to return home to live with her mother. And thus, her escape takes her back to the small town she was once desperate to leave. Along with Desiree comes arrives her very dark-skinned daughter, Jude, who is then marginalized by a town that values light skin.
The two sisters hold secrets, not just of race and color but of identity and family also. Their choices and circumstances take each sister on different journeys. Yet, the twins’ lives intertwine in unexpected ways through their daughters.
The author, Brit Bennett, writes a story with surprising plot twists, pointed observations around race, and insightful psychological revelations. She writes vivid descriptions of the stark differences in the twins’ adult lives. The author depicts the sisters’ experience in blatant and bold descriptions as they feel the impact of racism in their lives. In summary, I found the book engrossing, well-written and insightful. Although I wanted a slightly different ending, I highly recommend The Vanishing Half.