The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Rating:           9.5

General Rating: This is more than a great story. It’s spectacular writing, too.

Skip factor:  0%. Nothing. The writing was way too good to skip a word.

Who should read: Women, young and old, black and white.

Summary/storyline: This is the story of twins, Desiree and Stella Vignes, light-skinned black women who grew up in a town called Mallard.

Mallard is a “strange place,” a community predominantly composed of light-skinned blacks. The residents were: “Fair and blonde and redhead, the darkest ones no swarthier than a Greek.”

Desiree, the wilder of the two twins, convinces quiet, subdued Stella to move away with her, then strangely, Stella disappears.

The story splits and follows the different paths of the twins. One lives as a black woman, the other, as white. Desiree marries a successful, dark-skinned black man, Sam, and has a baby, who resembles her father. But when Sam turns violent toward Desiree, she flees, moving back to Mallard, where her dark-skinned baby is shunned.

Stella marries a white man, Blake Sanders, and “crosses over.” I was unfamiliar with this term. Crossing over is hiding your black heritage and living as a white person. Stella has one daughter and falls into a white-privileged community, where her fear of being exposed controls her every move.

Much later, Desiree’s daughter crosses paths with Stella’s daughter, and the story unfolds, showing the many differences between being raised white versus black.


Bennett’s character development is superb. Here, she creates two realistic women with believable lives. Supporting characters are equally authentic. Engaging. Endearing. You’ll love some and dislike others. All are interesting, unique and contribute to the story, helping to magnify the differences between a black and white life.

Writing:  This writing is so good I was sorry I borrowed it from the library. It’s the sort of story a writer will read over and over for inspiration. There were sentences I studied: “She was never up to anything, of course, her days blending together into a sameness that she later found comforting.” Or “…flecks of bone and skin swirling in an urn.” Great description, literally and figuratively.  Exquisite.

Read this author again?  Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Please! Someone let me know when her other books are on sale!

Read on!


CJ Zahner is the author of The Suicide Gene, a psychological thriller; psychic thrillers Dream Wide Awake, Project Dream, and The Dream Diaries; and Chick Lit novels Friends Who Move Couches and Don’t Mind Me, I Came with the House. Zahner’s dream series novels were inspired by first-hand experiences. See the video of her 9/11 premonition  here. Download her Beyond Reality Radio podcast here. Follow her on InstagramTwitterFacebookGoodreadsBookBub, or LinkedIn. Purchase her books on Amazon.