Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi is such an amazing novel with beautiful writing and powerful themes. It starts in 18th century Ghana and tells the stories of two sisters – Effia and Esi. Effia is married to a white British soldier who works in slavery at the Cape Coast Castle. Her sister Esi, who she never learns about and who grew up in another village, ends up being captured and sold into slavery and is taken by ship to America to work on a tobacco plantation.
Homegoing tells the story of these two family branches down the generations through alternating chapters. One family line stays in Ghana, the other deals with the hardship of America. Each chapter tells the story of a different descendant, both men and women, and keeps going from the 18th century through to present day.
I learned a lot reading this novel about a period of time that’s still impacting America today. When told through the prism of a family saga it made big events seem personal, even though it moved quickly over events like the American Civil War. Each character’s story is richly drawn even though they only get one chapter. Each chapter is a snapshot of a particular period in time. There’s a handy family tree at the start of the book which I referred to a lot so I could keep track of the story. It did get confusing at times remembering who is who.
Apparently this is Yaa Gyasi’s first novel and it’s an amazing achievement for a first time author. While there is a lot of hardship and heartache in this novel there’s also warmth, humour and love. This book felt epic in scale even though it’s just over 300 pages long. I don’t think I have anything more I can say about this book other than read it!
Verdict: A beautifully written, powerful novel.