At 16, they run away from their stifling life to New Orleans, where they eventually part company. Estelle passes for white, marries her boss, and moves to Los Angeles. Desiree marries a dark man, who is violent, and moves to Washington, D.C.
She leaves him and returns to Mallard with her dark-skinned daughter. The sisters do not hear from each other for years, but their daughters’ lives intersect eventually. Told in multiple voices through these generations, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Bennett explores racial history and relations, sexuality, and the ties of family in this masterful story.