Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Two sisters, seven generations, one novel: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

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Homegoing is an epic, absorbing novel that spans seven generations, showing how characters’ lives and their consequences reverberate through time. It starts on the Gold Coast of Africa, with two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, who don’t know each other. One is sold into slavery, the other becomes a slave trader’s wife. The book follows their descendants across Ghana and America as they face war, imprisonment, tragedy, and love, and dream of fire and water.

The narrative follows one character at a time in small segments jumping between the sides of the family and then to the next generation, which gives it a fast pace that is easy to follow. The way the story is weaved together as it moves forward is masterful, giving enough detail to fill in the picture of characters’ lives whilst always feeling lightly done. It is difficult to pick stand out characters because the whole thing fits together so distinctly, but the way that the progress of America is shown through slavery, civil war, discrimination, and imprisonment alongside the depiction of British colonialism in Ghana from the first pair of stories to the final two is perhaps most memorable.

Homegoing is the kind of novel that spans so much time and place that it cannot be defined as being one historical period or location, but rather has an epic scope with a huge variety of characters. It tells the story of how two people who started off in a certain close proximity can have lives and then generations of descendants that go so far apart, yet still have similarities. This is one for fans of novels that draw you into the lives of their characters and can’t be confined to boundaries.