Friday, September 23, 2016

Review: Homegoing

Effia and Esi are half sisters who are born in different villages in Ghana. Effia marries a powerful Englishman and lives in luxury at Cape Coast Castle. Her sister is imprisoned beneath the castle and shipped off to America as a slave. The sisters never meet, but both women are the matriarchs of generations who achieve things their ancestors could never have imagined. Effia's children and grandchildren deal with the devastating consequences of the slave trade and the conflicts between the Fante and Asante people. Esi's descendants are forced into lives of slavery before escaping and facing the danger of coal mining in Alabama and discrimination in 20th century New York City.

Homegoing is Yaa Gyasi's debut novel and it is a powerful, unforgettable story. The book is told in alternating chapters, as we travel 250 years with Effia's family and Esi's descendants. Each story is brutal, but there is also an inescapable feeling of weight as generation after generation is the victim of hatred and abuse. Slavery has consequences for generations for both the enslaved and the countries and families they are ripped away from. Each chapter is rich with research, without that unfortunate feeling of info dumping that can happen in historical fiction.

The heart of Homegoing, of course, resides with the relationships. We see parents sacrifice for their children, a man searching for his pregnant wife, a son reuniting with his mother, and a young woman who feels torn between her grandmother and history in Ghana and her life in America. While it can occasionally be frustrating to leave behind characters you've come to care for, it's a testament to Gyasi's writing that you want to stay with them for a longer time. Each moment in time is carefully constructed and, taken altogether, this novel is a heartbreaking and beautiful testament to the legacy of both pain and love.

By Yaa Gyasi
Knopf June 2016
305 pages
From the library


  1. But why did they have to give it such an ugly cover? :)

    1. Haha. That is a question for someone different than me, I think. :)

  2. This is a book I feel I should read. It covers a fascinating time period and has gotten great reviews. It seems like it could be depressing though and I'm not sure I actually want to read it.

    1. I can understand that. I find I have to temper my reading. If I've just read something dark and heavy, it's definitely time for something light and hopeful!