The Vanishing Half Part VI: Places (1986) Summary and Analysis
by Brit Bennett

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Part VI: Places (1986) Summary and Analysis

Chapter 16

Stella, confronted with Kennedy’s alienation from her over the issue of her past, finally returns to Mallard, though the name of the town has been changed. A porter at the Opelousas railway station tells her it is now known variously as Lebeau, Port Barre, or Palmetto. Desiree is still there, working at the same diner, which has become so identified with her that the locals refer to it as “Desiree’s” instead of Lou’s. The mother of the twins, Adele, is still alive but is suffering from dementia, though she’s at times somewhat lucid. 

Desiree visits Jude in Minneapolis in the winter of 1986. The women ask each other about the men in their lives, Early and Reese, respectively, and why neither of them has gotten married. 

Early is no longer employed as a bounty hunter, and he only discovers that the man for whom he had directly worked, Ceel, has died when he reads about it in a newspaper. Early works now in an oil refinery and has bonded with Adele, in effect his mother-in-law, taking her on his fishing trips and to her medical appointments. At times Adele imagines Early is her son, at times her husband, but when he corrects her, she recognizes the reality that she has neither a son nor a husband. When they return from fishing one day, Stella—a white woman, as Early sees her—is sitting on the porch. Adele recognizes her immediately as her daughter and acts as if Stella has never even left home, telling her to help clean the fishes they have caught and brought home. 

Stella and Desiree reunite at the diner. At first Desiree pushes her away, but when Stella asks for forgiveness, the two finally embrace. The sisters gradually observe how different they are from each other in the way they speak and in how they do simple things such as holding a knife and fork. They reconnect in a long conversation in which Stella reveals that she married her boss, Mr. Sanders. When Stella tells her that Jude found her in Los Angeles, Desiree at first doesn’t believe her. Jude has never told Desiree about having located Stella. Stella is terrified about how Kennedy will accept the truth that Stella has deceived her all her life about their background. 

When Stella’s visit is over, Early drives her to the station, and she gives him her wedding ring so that he can sell it and use the money to provide for Adele’s care. 

A month later, Kennedy, who has been in Europe, returns to Los Angeles and immediately notices that Stella’s wedding ring is gone. Stella almost tells Kennedy the same lie she told her husband about having lost the ring while washing her hands at work. But instead she tells her, “I gave it to my sister.” The secret is finally out, and Stella, regardless of how painful it will be, agrees to talk to her daughter about the past, saying “I want you to know me.” 

Chapter 17

Jude is at medical school and receives a call from her mother, who tells her Adele has died. Jude calls Kennedy and gives her the news, saying, “Your grandma died.” Kennedy is struck by her having said “your” and not “our.” When Jude asks if Kennedy will inform Stella of this, Kennedy replies, “When do I tell her anything?” Jude suggests that Stella may want to be told the news, but Kennedy counters that she doesn't. 

Jude and Reese fly to Louisiana for the funeral, and Early meets them in Lafayette to drive them to Mallard. At the Vignes home, they prepare for the funeral, Jude helping her mother cook for the funeral luncheon. When Jude asks Desiree, “Do you think Daddy loved you?” Desiree answers that “everybody who ever hurt me loved me.” 

After the funeral, Desiree and Early leave Mallard and resettle in Houston, where Desiree gets a job at a call center...

(The entire section is 1,020 words.)