Review: Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi

Following half-sisters Effia and Esi, they are separated from their home-villages early in their lives. Effia is married to a British slaver, but stays in Ghana — Esi, however, caught by slavers, is sent to America’s plantations as a slave. Homegoing follows Effia and Esi’s descendants, one through the wars for independence, and the other through the Civil Rights era.


Why this book?: Mainly because it’s the Keep It Diverse choice for Black History Month.

 

Heartbreaking and intense

With Homegoing being a multi-generational story, it seriously focuses on family and their interactions. Characters tended to make appearances or cameos in other chapters, and that was really nice. You got to see how these relationships develop, usually how they began and ended.

There were a lot of messages throughout this book, which most often spoke of the actions of the past, and how they affected those today. The fact that Esi and Effia were related, yet ended up in drastically different circumstances, and their descendants had so many different problems, often caused by their ancestors, was so telling about the wrongs that were committed back then. I won’t claim to know anything about the pain that was caused, but it was heartbreaking.

The first half of the book was amazing. I loved Esi’s chapter, and Kojo’s, and Ness’s, and Quey’s! Quey’s was especially interesting, and I’m almost wondering if Quey was gay or even bisexual. But we never get to learn because the chapters for each character never continue after a certain part in their life.

Second half went downhill

The way this book is told, you get a chapter per person, two per generation for both Effia and Esi. However, the characters were barely touched upon, and sometimes barely came up before or after their initial chapter. I didn’t really connect with any of the characters, except a few–those few mostly in the beginning. Part 1 was riddled with messages and all of the stories were seriously touching. But the moment I turned the page to Part 2, I felt like something changed. The stories were shorted, and less heartfelt. I was quickly bored with the settings and the characters, and soon enough it felt like the same idea was just being repeated over and over again.

Going along with that, the second half was so slow. I flew through the first half, loving every page of it. But the second was extremely boring, and I felt like I had read it before in some other book. While there were a few chapters that I really enjoyed, such as Willie’s, I just really couldn’t get any interest in any others.

Final Rating: ★★★½☆☆

Overall?

I enjoyed Homegoing much more than I was expecting. I’m not usually a historical fiction fan, because it tends to get slow. And, yes, this one did get quite slow at points. But I still found myself enjoying certain points, and although I saw the ending coming from the very beginning, I didn’t find the novel that predictable at all.

Would I Recommend?

This was an amazing read, especially for Black History Month and the Keep It Diverse book club. The reason I joined was to read novels I wouldn’t have previously chosen for myself, and this one definitely fits the bill. I would recommend this book to anyone, but be aware that I mentioned that it got slow after Part 1, and that you really don’t connect with the characters at all.


Additional Information:

Published: June 7th, 2016

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf

Page Count: 305

Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis: via Goodreads

The unforgettable New York Times best seller begins with the story of two half-sisters, separated by forces beyond their control: one sold into slavery, the other married to a British slaver. Written with tremendous sweep and power, Homegoing traces the generations of family who follow, as their destinies lead them through two continents and three hundred years of history, each life indeliably drawn, as the legacy of slavery is fully revealed in light of the present day.

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.

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