23 July 2020, The Tablet

White lies


The Vanishing Half
(DIALOGUE, 352 PP, £14.99)
Tablet bookshop price £13.49 • Tel 020 7799 4064

The “vanishing half” of Brit Bennett’s tale of race and sisterhood in the Deep South is a twin who chooses a new identity over familial ties, and disappears. Bennett’s second novel combines literary prose with a page-turning plot.

Identical twins Stella and Desiree Vignes grow up inseparable in a small, fictional town called Mallard, a “light-skinned city” where the residents are “colorstruck” by darker skin tones. After witnessing, when they are eight, the brutal beating (and ­ultimate death) of their father at the hands of white men, aged 16 the sisters run away to New Orleans, keen to escape their home town. Desiree, the outwardly stronger-minded twin, believes she has orchestrated the move, but what she hasn’t reckoned on is the private, interior life of her quieter sister, Stella, who has toyed with the idea of “passing”, or becoming white, and who ups and leaves with no forwarding address in order to embrace this new life.

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