Author: Yaa Gyasi
Publication Date: June 2016
Version: Physical Book
Genre: Historical Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 3/5 Stars
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.
I am so happy I finally got to read this book! I have had it on my TBR shelf for a while now and had such high hopes for reading it during the Booktube-A-Thon, but didn’t finish it in time. And now, I am just glad I have read the book that has had so much hype surrounding it.
I want to start by saying I completely understand the hype. There is no question in my mind that Yaa Gyasi can write. She can write really well. With this book, she created a heartbreaking narrative of two Ghanaian women, half-sisters, who are separated by slavery and we see glimpses of their life and hardships living in Ghana and the US through generations. There is also no doubt that this story was an incredible insight into the horrors each generation presented for both of our characters and their families.
The reason this book is only a 3 star read for me has nothing to do with the story, which was excellent, or even really the writing. My biggest issue was the format. I felt like I would be invested in one character just as a new chapter started and the POV switched. At the beginning, I didn’t mind as much, but as the book went on, it started to feel much longer than its 300 pages. For such a sweeping and powerful story, for me, the multitude of POVs didn’t quite work.
I can absolutely understand why there are so many perspectives in this book, particularly because we follow a two whole lines of descendants as we see the huge changes that occur from generation to generation. However, this did make it hard to really connect with some of the characters and their perspectives.
Despite not liking the short story aspect, I would still 100% recommend this book.