Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review.
I first heard about Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi’s incredible debut novel, on Lainey Gossip’s instagram. She wrote “one chapter in and I already know this will be one of my top reads of all time.”
Getting book recommendations from a gossip blogger might seem strange but Lainey isn’t your average gossip blogger and I’ve gotten lots of quality recommendations from her. So I was excited to get to read this book.
Homegoing is the generational story of Effia and Esi’s families. Effia and Esi are half-sisters, born in Ghana in the 18th century. Effia is married to a white man, involved in the slave trade and lives a luxurious life built on that trade. Esi is taken from her life and sold into slavery. Their families’ stories are told chapter by chapter, through history to the present day.
It’s a remarkable novel from a first time author. It is an incredibly smooth read – you really do get swept up by it from the first page. It didn’t take me long to feel the way that Lainey felt about this book.
The structure of the book reminds me of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, but where that one let me down in the end, Homegoing goes from strength to strength. Going through history, chapter by chapter, allows Gyasi to cover a lot of ground without overwhelming her reader; slavery, poverty, racism, culture clashes, love, war, the bonds of family, and the idea of home are all covered in this book. When you realize the book is only 300 pages, that’s pretty remarkable.
I think one of the most incredible things about this book is that the characters have such depth. Each character only has one chapter to spotlight their stories but each character comes to us fully realized. Their history, how they came to be in this moment, their connections to things that have happened before – all is clear and lovely and perfect. I became attached to and invested in each character. Ness, who loved and lost her family; Jo, who thought his family had a better chance; Quey who was a product of his parent’s marriage and belonged exactly nowhere; Akuah, who dreamed in fire and lost so much.
I learned a lot from this book – I’m the first to admit that I don’t read enough books from or about Africa. It made me want to learn more, to read more of these types of stories.
If you haven’t read Homegoing already, put it in your list. This is one people will be discovering for years to come.