Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Genre: Historical Fiction, African Fiction
This newly published (June of 2016) New York Times Best Seller debut novel starts with the story of two half sisters, Effia and Esi, born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. At a very young age…Effia, the village beauty, is married off to a British Colonialist and lives a life of comfort in the Cape Coast Castle. Her marriage is arranged as a means to ensure the Asante’s place in the slave trade with the governing British. Effia’s family and descendants remain in Ghana dealing with British Imperialism and centuries of tribal war between the Fante and Asante tribes.
Unbeknownst to Effia, her half sister, Esi is being held in the dungeons below the vast castle after she was captured and sold along with thousands of others in the booming slave trade off the Gold Coast. Esi is soon shipped off to America where she, her children and grandchildren will live their lives as slaves. Each generation being affected by slavery in some way… from the plantations, to the Civil War, to The Great Migration, to the coal mines, to the jazz clubs, to the civil rights movement, to the dope houses in Harlem….all the way up to present day .
“We believe the one who has power. He is the one who gets to write the story. So when you study history you must ask yourself, Whose story am I missing?, Whose voice was suppressed so that this voice could come forth? Once you have figured that out, you must find that story too. From there you get a clearer, yet still imperfect, picture.”
Homegoing traces a single blood line, through two sisters, seven generations of their families, and over two hundred years of history in just over 300 pages. It sounds impossible….but it works. The format and prose in this fantastic debut novel is so deep and perfect, I could not put it down. Each chapter follows a completely different member of the next generation in the story…alternating between Effia and Esi’s families. Because the individual chapters are short…roughly 20 pages each, they almost read like short stories or vignettes of each person…all the while intertwining with each other to form one large, epic family tale. There are sometimes years or decades that pass in-between stories, however the way it’s written, you don’t feel like you are missing out on anything. The entire novel just has such a pace and flow to it that there are no slow parts, no lagging. I found myself devouring each chapter just so I could see how each person’s story ended up….only to be introduced to get yet another character that I couldn’t stop wanting to read about.
I still cannot get over the amount of history, story line, character development and beautiful flowing language that was included in such a relatively short novel. Gyasi has woven such an epic, intense and important story…I learned quite a bit of new (to me) history as well as felt such a deep and visceral connection to each character. Homegoing is a definite recommend from me…especially if you are a fan of historical fiction. But even if you usually don’t gravitate toward this genre, I still think it’s something you should try. Sometimes the best part of reading is that it can not only give us new information and entertainment…but it can also enlighten us to a perspective that me might otherwise never understand. Homegoing has easily earned it’s spot into my “favorites” category and will likely be one of the best books I’ve read this year.
My Rating: 5/5 Stars
Homegoing – Amazon