Review: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Synopsis: 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.

I literally stayed up until 4am to finish this book. Was that because my roommate and I watched New Girl until 2:30 and then couldn’t sleep so we both read books in our living? Maybe. But it doesn’t take away from the fact that this book was so incredible. Like the synopsis says, Gyasi starts with two half sisters (who don’t know that they are half sisters) and then traces their lineages over generations. She follows only one person per generation, and each person only gets a chapter of around 20 pages. But within those 20 pages their story and character is so masterfully detailed that by the end of the chapter you end up wanting so much more. Her world and character building are really incredible and there isn’t a chapter in this book that I didn’t feel fully immersed in the story.

There were a few chapters that really struck me though. Quey’s story and grappling with sexuality, Abena’s struggle with misogyny in her village, H’s experience in the mines and grappling with prison labour (or basically slavery under a different name), Sonny’s outlook on activism and his battle with addiction. Like, all of these stories had me. Most chapters I’ll admit had me on the first page, but these ones in particular had me and only got better the more that I read. Gyasi’s portrayal of these struggles is so well done, and it’s honestly incredible that she could touch on so many important topics and do justice to each and every one of them.

While I didn’t love the ending as much as I loved the rest of the book, I still thought it was very beautiful and a great tying up of the bloodlines of Effia and Esi. Seeing Marcus and Marjorie go back to Ghana together and basically reclaim their origins was so touching, and I did like that the ending was a little more open. I gave the book like 4.75 out of 5, which y’all know means a 5/5. I’m really excited to see what Gyasi comes out with next.

Hope you enjoyed this review ducks, and I’ll be back soon with another one!
~ Mon

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