- “Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi
- Contemporary Adult Fiction
- Read as a hard copy book
- 5/5 stars
- Finished August 12, 2016
The unforgettable New York Times best-seller begins with the story of two half-sisters, separated by forces beyond their control: one sold into slavery, the other married to a British slaver. Written with tremendous sweep and power, Homegoing traces the generations of family who follow, as their destinies lead them through two continents and three hundred years of history, each life indelibly drawn, as the legacy of slavery is fully revealed in light of the present day.
Effia and Esi are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.
I really don’t even know where to start with this book. It’s wonderful, different, but absolutely wonderful. Each chapter is told from a different character’s perspective through the generations of these two half-sisters. Effia marries a white slaver, and her half-sister Esi is sold into slavery. Effia gets Chapter One, and Esi gets Chapter Two. The subsequent chapters follow the next generation in that order. For example, Effia’s child gets Chapter Three, and Esi’s child gets Chapter Four, and so on and so forth. Don’t worry, there’s a family tree in the beginning of the book.
I couldn’t put this book down. It’s a quick read, but that doesn’t necessarily make it an easy read. I think it should be hard to read books like this, that deal with heavy topics such as this, but I also couldn’t stop reading it. Many people have commented on the fact that they didn’t like the chaptered style of reading, I, however, loved it. I loved the glimpse we got into each characters life and how in the subsequent or even previous generations we’d see more of their lives.
I felt like Gyasi knew the power of a story, and how an intentional glimpse into a life tells so much, and how much you can see in that experience. You can ee how far generations effect the future generations, like something your great-great grandmother is something your family still does or an attitude that’s still prevalent on that side. It’s a wonderful, moving novel.
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