A rich family saga from Africa to America
This is a stunning debut on an epic level! In her own unique voice, writer Yaa Gyasi today with "Homegoing" has accomplished what Alex Haley did with Roots in 1976. This sprawling historical novel takes readers from 18th century Africa through contemporary Harlem. Generations of families endure tribal wars in their native land, the middle passage, enslavement, post-Civil War racism, and Northern migration. The characters and storylines twist and turn, back and forth from countries in Africa and America. Starting with two half sisters, Effia and Esi, born into different villages. One is married off to an Englishman living in the comfort of a castle on the Cape Coast. The other is imprisoned below the castle and eventually whisked away to America where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. Gyasi’s research is thorough, her attention to detail undeniable and her finesse with characterizations and prose are affecting.
Esi had been in the women’s dungeon of the Cape Coast Castle for two weeks. She spent her fifteenth birthday there. On her fourteenth birthday, she was in the heart of Asanteland, in her father’s, Big Man’s, compound. He was the best warrior in the village, so everyone had come to pay their respects to the daughter who grew more beautiful with each passing day... Esi learned to split her life into Before the Castle and Now. Before the Castle, she was the daughter of Big Man. Now she was dust. Before the Castle, she was the prettiest girl in the village. Now she was thin air.
One cannot overstate what a literary undertaking Gyasi has accomplished, exploring individuals one generation at a time. They are heroes and heroines of each era. They are victims of their times, with no recourse. Gyasi managed to tackle this project on an expansive scale, with broad strokes, yet at the same time she also successfully created a sense of immediacy and intimacy. And she does so with aplomb. Because of the historical span and the plethora of characters, readers are, thankfully, furnished with family tree diagram in the preface, and most to be sure, will make good use of it throughout. "Homegoing" is a unique and inspiring literary adventure by a talented young writer with a long future before her.
Berkeley, California-based Yaa Gyasi was born in Ghana and raised in Huntsville, Alabama. Since Homegoing’s 2016 debut, she has amassed numerous awards for fiction.