by Yaa Gyasi
Penguin Random House | Vintage
Formats available: Paperback, Electronic, Audio
Pub Date: 5.2.17
REVIEWER: Sophia Rose
Paper copy won in a giveaway. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
Ghana, eighteenth century: two half sisters are born into different villages, each unaware of the other. One will marry an Englishman and lead a life of comfort in the palatial rooms of the Cape Coast Castle. The other will be captured in a raid on her village, imprisoned in the very same castle, and sold into slavery.
Homegoing follows the parallel paths of these sisters and their descendants through eight generations: from the Gold Coast to the plantations of Mississippi, from the American Civil War to Jazz Age Harlem. Yaa Gyasi’s extraordinary novel illuminates slavery’s troubled legacy both for those who were taken and those who stayed—and shows how the memory of captivity has been inscribed on the soul of our nation.
I can get stuck in a rut with my reading choices and not notice all the wonderful books out there around me which is why I love following a variety of book bloggers and catching glimpses of new to me books and authors. All that to say, I noticed this book last year posted up on two different blogs and knew I had to get my hands on it.
Eighteenth century Gold Coast Ghana and then a compelling family saga that moved through the generations to the present. The saga follows the divergent lives of two half sisters. One leaves her village to marry the British governor at the Castle fort and the other is taken from her village and sold into slavery.
Need I say the book broke my heart a few times. Slavery is so ugly and evil. But, the author chose to tell of many generations to show that people can survive the most hellistic situations and find a way. I was rooting on Esi and her family through it all.
I have to confess that I was more riveted to the earlier chapters because the historical past was what drew my attention to the book in the first place and it was tough for me to keep track after the new generations came along even though the story mostly touched on the high points. It did read swiftly.
I don’t want to give the impression that it was dry or dull or lacking in depth. No, it was rich and vivid with color. The author’s writing from the very opening words put me right there in the story that began with Effia’s birth in a Fante village near a British stronghold.
I think what struck me most was the sense of family throughout the generations. Family wrecked the most havoc on one another like Effia’s ‘mother’ did conniving to get rid of her and set a new chain of events into motion and love for family brought the most heartrending sacrifices.
This saga carries well into the twentieth century America and I found the latter half interesting for the characters and some of the more modern turmoils the family members had to face.
All in all, it was well-written and engaged the reader emotionally. I liked how it didn’t compartmentalize the eras of history since it followed the lives of the families down through the generations. I wanted it to spend more time with the earlier generations, but was well satisfied with what I got.