Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Published by: Alfred A Knopf on June 7th, 2016
Genre: Histprical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Cultural,
Source: Borrowed from the library
Summary (from Goodreads): A novel of breathtaking sweep and emotional power that traces three hundred years in Ghana and along the way also becomes a truly great American novel. Extraordinary for its exquisite language, its implacable sorrow, its soaring beauty, and for its monumental portrait of the forces that shape families and nations, Homegoing heralds the arrival of a major new voice in contemporary fiction.
Two half-sisters, 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.
Generation after generation, Yaa Gyasi’s magisterial first novel sets the fate of the individual against the obliterating movements of time, delivering unforgettable characters whose lives were shaped by historical forces beyond their control. Homegoing is a tremendous reading experience, not to be missed, by an astonishingly gifted young writer.
Review: I read this back in July and I just couldn’t find the energy to review this multi-generational debut novel until now. The structure is quite interesting as it follows 2 descendants from 18th century to current day. Each chapter is a new character and a new backstory. You will find yourself going back to the front of the book to look at the family timeline again to see what previous story it was connected to.
I found myself learning about African history and culture as each character entered the story which is something I have rarely had seen in a “popular” novel. I had no idea about what was happening on the Gold Coast and enjoyed the history lesson. This has created a spark to seek out other novels based on countries and cultures and points in history foreign to me. This is why I love historical fiction.
My only issue with this was being introduced to so many POVs at once so the reader couldn’t fully connect with each of the characters. However, I did find that this style kept me reading on as you sometimes get a resolution for the previous character in the next generations chapter.
I found this really well written and an interesting narrative. It was definitely a good choice to read after the hype was over.