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Book Review: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

I finished 2016 with some powerhouse novels that were some of my favorites of the year.

One of these novels was Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. It’s a novel that chronicles the lives and descendants of two sisters each leading very different lives.

 Effia is married at a young age to a white slave trader and is taken from her village the life she knows to become the wife of an Englishman. She begins her new life at the Castle – the hub of the Gold Coast slave trade where human cargo is stored before it is shipped to America.

Far below in the dungeons of this same castle, Effia’s half-sister, Esi is being held. Captured by a rival tribe and sold into slavery, she endures unbelievable pain as she is shipped an ocean away from home and everything she’s known. But while Esi knows about the existence of her sister, Effia has no idea that Esi exists.

Effia’s descendants experience years of tribal war and the effects of European colonization in Ghana while Esi’s family experience span from slavery in the Southern States, convict operated coal mining to the beginning of the jazz age in Harlem.

At first I found this novel to be slightly slow to start, but once I got through the first couple of chapters I became completely absorbed by the stories of each character. The format of this novel is a little different than I was used to – each chapter is told by a different person, alternating between Effia and Esi’s descendants. There were times when I wish there would have been more to a certain character’s story, but overall I felt like this writing style worked for the novel and conveyed the message that the author was trying to tell. In some ways, this novel was like a book of short stories that were all interconnected and I loved putting the pieces together.

For a debut novel I felt that this was a very ambitious project as it covered a lot of history in a relatively short amount of time, but overall I think that it was very well executed. This novel is very relevant and in the same vein as Toni Morrison’s novel, Beloved, or Roots by Alex Haley. Pick it up if you’re looking for something that will stir your soul up a little bit.

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