Different Worlds

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett explores the extremely different experiences that can occur between races, in this case between biracial, identical twin sisters. Desiree and Stella Vignes were born in the tiny town of Mallard; a place in which lighter skin is prized.

Side note- I read this book about a month ago, so the details are a bit foggy. The story flashes back to events leading up to the teenaged sisters running away from home. The sisters were extremely close throughout this time, until eventually Stella abandons Desiree. It turns out that Stella met and later married a white man, and crossed over to be considered fully white. In making this decision she gave up all connections to her sister, mother and hometown. Meanwhile, Desiree marries a very black man who ends up being an abusive husband. Both sisters have daughters around the same age (of course with no knowledge of each other). Desiree’s daughter is dark-skinned like her father, while Stella’s daughter is blond and blue-eyed.

Desiree escapes her husband by moving back to Mallard with her mother and daughter. The story tracks Desiree’s progress as she moves back into her childhood home while also following Stella’s life as white housewife.

Eventually, the daughters/cousins randomly meet. The story gets interesting with the prospect of the sisters being reunited. But Stella’s life has been a lie, making it almost impossible for them to ever gain back the relationship they once had. White privilege is a central topic apparent through this book. It is also full of family dynamics, frustrations and important relationships. It kept my interest throughout, despite not having the ending I hoped for.

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