New York Times Bestselling Author

Book Review: Historical Fiction

Posted on Jun 26, 2017 |

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi


Historical Fiction > Literary Fiction

This is a beautifully written, complex novel that begins in Ghana. Half-sister Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in the Cape Coast Castle above where humans are kept in horrific confinement until they are sold off to the British, Dutch, or Portuguese as slaves. Her half-sister Esi is one of the humans snatched from her village and survives the unimaginable conditions and ends up in the American south where she faces different horrific treatment.

The novel follows the lives of the offspring of these women from different parts of Africa to various places and conditions in America. Each chapter was told from the point of view of a different member of the family tree. I’d find myself getting incredibly absorbed in one story line and then have to shift gears to a new character’s perspective.

One of the story lines I found most riveting took place in 1880, when technically slavery had ended, but, at least in Alabama, they got around that pesky freedom business by conjuring “crimes” that black men committed such as failing to cross the street when a white woman was on the same side of the road. To pay off the time in prison they were sentenced to ten years of hard labor in coal mines.

I knew about some of this awful history through books and films, but Gyasi vividly and deftly chronicles the past (to the present) through her words. This is a stunning book, a masterful achievement.


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