Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi


I thought I knew what to expect when I picked up “Homegoing” the debut novel by Yaa Gyasi – a novel of emigration and immigration, of loss and the search for a new and better life.

I did get that, but I also found myself quickly turning the pages of a novel set in the fascinating historical and cultural context of Ghana, a country I knew little about.

“Homegoing” opens with the heartbreaking, chilling stories of the African slavetrade, of wars fought between the Asante and Fante tribes with British and American slavetraders waiting in the wings ready to exploit the situation. The novel follows two half-sisters Effia and Esi born in two different villages and into two very different futures. We follow their families from 18th century Ghana to present day as some stay in Africa and some travel to America destined to a life in slavery.

The novel covers a lot of ground in its 300 pages, leaving some historical periods, especially the development and growing independence of Ghana, unexplored or at least not fully explored. In spite of each chapter’s focus on a different family member the novel never feels disjointed, as Yaa Gyasi succeeds in making each story utterly personal, intimate and relevant, willing the reader to move forward at a quick pace to discover their fates.

With “Homegoing” we are once again reminded that where we come from is an inextricable part of who we are and that – if we allow it to – it can determine who we become, for better or for worse.

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Austin Sailsbury