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Homegoing, by Yap Gyasi

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Homegoing, by Yap Gyasi

5 Stars out of 5

Homeging, the debut novel of Yaa Gyasi, is actually a series of loosely tied short stories that chronicle the histories of two branches of an African family. The novel opens in the late 1700’s where we meet two stepsisters, Effia and Esi, born into rival tribes. Although these women come from the same mother, their lives track forward in totally different directions. Effia, begins her life as a poor Fante slave girl and ends her days living in luxury after being given in marriage to the British governor of Cape Coast, a slave trading outpost in what is now Ghana in West Africa. Esi is the wealthy and pampered daughter of an Asante “Big Man,” captured in her youth by Fante warriors, and ends her days living as a field slave on a cotton plantation in America’s deep south. From these beginnings, Gyasi creates two compelling family stories. Both branches of the family tree are cursed by original sin of slavery, be it from its British and American ancestors who traded and owned black slaves, or from its West African ancestors who acted as willing agents to the white man’s “peculiar” institution.

Each chapter of the novel is narrated from the perspective of a descendant of either Effia or Esi, one representative for each generation. Effia’s family remains in Africa, Esi’s in America, and the stories of the two branches alternate, chapter by chapter, up to the present day. The end result is a sprawling epic, filled with compassion and cruelty, hope and pathos. It’s a novel that spans over two centuries, with dozens of unforgettable characters, half of whom exist an ocean apart from the other half, each new generation facing its own unique, yet hauntingly similar set of setbacks and occasional triumphs, like different sides to the same coin. It’s a novel easy to get lost in – complex for sure, but told in an easily digestible chapter format that makes it perfectly suited for beach reading!

  1. Sara Walker says:

    I just finished Homegoing last night, having read most of it at the beach earlier this month. While I’m not sure I would agree with it being “perfectly suited for beach reading”–which to me means light and fun not gory and depressing–I do agree it deserves 5/5 stars! Will recommend this to others–really powerful, great story. Thanks for the book 🙂

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