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Fiction Review: Homegoing

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I feel like I may be the last person to finally read Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. I just read it for Black History Month, after receiving it for Christmas, and I can see why this book created so much buzz! This historical epic, covering eight generations of a family, from 1700′s Ghana to slave plantations in the U.S. to the present day, was a stunning novel that kept me rapt.

In eighteenth-century Ghana, two half-sisters are born in different villages, each completely unaware of the other. Effia was born in the Fante realm on a night when fire raged through her village. Her mother, Baaba, never seemed to like Effia and often mistreated and beat her, though her father tried in vain to protect her. In the 1770′s, a white British man named James Collins, the newly appointed governor, married Effia, and she went to live with him in Cape Coast Castle. She was well-treated by James and the other British men, lived in a beautiful home, and was soon pregnant and gave birth to a son, Quey. As time went on, she began to better understand what went on in the castle, that many of her own countrymen and women (and children) were kept in the basement dungeons and sent overseas on ships as slaves.

During the same time period, Esi was born into a small Asante village, the daughter of a Big Man (prominent in the village) and his third wife. She had a wonderful childhood, as her village grew, and she enjoyed long walks with her father, who adored her. House servants, slaves stolen from warring villages, were a simple fact of life in Esi’s world, until she discovered that her own mother was a captive servant at one time in a Fante village, and she begins to truly understand what that means. As a teen, Esi is stolen by a warring tribe, and made to walk for many miles, tied to other captives, all the way to Cape Coast Castle, where she and the others are sold to the British. There, she is kept in the women’s dungeon in horrific conditions. Just before being walked to a waiting ship to travel to America as a slave, Esi is raped by a British soldier.

In this way, each of the different lines of this split family, unknown to each other, begins. The novel alternates between Effia’s family and Esi’s family, with a long chapter focused on one person in each generation, all the way to modern times (with a helpful family tree at the beginning). Gyasi’s wonderful writing weaves an intricate, complex picture of each family and each generation. When I realized the framework of the novel, I worried that it would be too disjointed, but it works. While I was always sorry to leave one person’s story, the next one was just as engrossing, and there is usually information about how the previous character’s story continued. Each of these characters is fully-formed, with great emotional depth, each dealing with their own unique challenges through the centuries.

The history here is fascinating, and I read the novel with my iPad by my side so that I could look up more information on the history, photos of the places described, and other facts; this book made me want to learn more. For instance, Cape Coast Castle is a real place that is still there today, and I just read a travel essay on a plane by actor Anthony Anderson, about his emotional first time touring the castle. Before reading this book, I was completely unaware that Africans were complicit in the slave trade (though, of course, it was the large sums of money Europeans were willing to pay that helped it grow). There is plenty of tragedy in this story, for both bloodlines, in Africa and in the U.S., but there are moments of joy and triumph, too, and the ending was very satisfying. This is a powerful, moving novel that will stay with me for a long time.

300 pages, Vintage Books

Random House Audio

This book fits in the following 2024 Reading Challenges:

Mount TBR Challenge

Alphabet Soup Challenge – H

Diversity Challenge

Travel the World in Books Challenge – Ghana

Literary Escapes Challenge – Alabama

Visit my YouTube Channel for more bookish fun!

Listen to a sample of the audiobook here and/or download it from Audible. I like the sound of the narrator, Dominic Hoffman.

Or get this audiobook from and support local bookstores (the same audio sample here, too).

Print and e-book from Amazon.

You can buy the book through, where your purchase will support the indie bookstore of your choice (or all indie bookstores)–the convenience of shopping online while still buying local!


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