Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Effia and Esi: two sisters with two very different destinies. One sold into slavery and 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.

Yaa Gyasi has written a miraculous novel - the intimate, gripping story of a brilliantly vivid cast of characters and through their lives the very story of America itself.

Each chapter alternates between the lives of the two sisters and their decedents, with each new chapter being devoted to the following generation and alternating between Ghana and America. It was an interesting way to present the lives of seven generations of family and suggested more a series of vignettes than a cohesive story. However, this is greatly aided by the family tree at the beginning of the book which enabled me to keep track of the different characters and I would have been a little lost without it.

Although, this fast progression through the generations took a little adaptation on my part as the reader, I ultimately enjoyed seeing the characters overlap. For example, where we may have been following a character in their early life she/he then reappears in subsequent chapters through the story of her/his child or grandchild; a technique which gave the novel cohesion and continuity.

It would not surprise me if this book becomes a staple of the school curriculum in years to come. Not only does it tell the story of the horrors of slavery but it is beautifully written and has much to teach us all.  For a debut novel this is a fantastic achievement and I am sure that Ms. Gyasi is a rising star in the literary world.

ISBN: 978-0241242728

Publisher: Viking

 About the Author:

Yaa Gyasi was born in Ghana and raised in Huntsville, Alabama. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop where she held a Dean’s Graduate Research Fellowship. Her short stories have appeared in African American Review and Callaloo. Homegoing is her debut novel.