Effia and Esi are two sisters with very different destinies. One sold into slavery; one a slave trader’s wife. The consequences of their fate reverberate through the generations that follow. Taking us from the Gold Coast of Africa to the cotton-picking plantations of Mississippi; from the missionary schools of Ghana to the dive bars of Harlem, spanning three continents and seven generations.
Homegoing is a debut historical fiction novel by Yaa Gyasi, a Ghanaian writer raised in Alabama. It is a multi generational saga that spans three centuries and follows the story two half sisters Effia, a slave trader’s wife and Esi who is sold into slavery. Yaa Gyasi has to be praised to be praised for an exceptional writing style. I was completely immersed in the worlds depicted in the book and the attention to detail makes it a gut wrenching read particularly when describing the harsh reality of slavery and the Jim Crow era. Each chapter of the book introduces us to a new character which allowed the reader to experience the narration from different points of view. And it has to be said, sustaining a novel that spans several generations whilst keeping the interest of the reader is not an easy feat.
But this mechanism ends up being a slight downfall for the novel. Half way through, it started to feel like a collection of short stories despite the ongoing thread that connected them all. Having more in depth stories on a few characters would have prevented the feeling of untied loose ends as I finished the novel.
With that said, this is a great read and one that I would recommend to everyone! Without a doubt, Homegoing is a labour of love, and the genre (historical fiction) is particularly useful here to learn more about slavery, the entanglement of relationships and causality in one family’s story.
Top Three Quotes
“We believe the one who has power. He is the one who gets to write the story. So when you study history you must ask yourself, Whose story am I missing?, Whose voice was suppressed so that this voice could come forth? Once you have figured that out, you must find that story too. From there you get a clearer, yet still imperfect, picture.”
“You want to know what weakness is? Weakness is treating someone as though they belong to you. Strength is knowing that everyone belongs to themselves.”
“We are all weak most of the time,’ she said finally. ‘Look at the baby. Born to his mother, he learns how to eat from her, how to walk, talk, hunt, run. He does not invent new ways. He just continues with the old. This is how we all come to the world, James. Weak and needy, desperate to learn how to be a person.’ She smiled at him. ‘But if we do not like the person we have learned to be, should we just sit in front of our fufu, doing nothing? I think, James, that maybe it is possible to make a new way.”
Guide to Book Review Rating
✯ – Meh
✯✯ – Read at your own risk
✯✯✯ – Hit and Miss
✯✯✯✯✯- Life Companion. Thank me later!