BOOK REVIEW: HOMEGOING by Yaa Gyasi (2016) (Viking)


Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (2016)

In her debut novel – Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi has produced a work which will be heralded and spoken of by many generations. The story begins with the lives of Effia and Esi – two sisters who are taken on different journeys which impact upon the generations that follow.

Homegoing is a journey beginning in the African Gold Coast and ending in Harlem, America. While the story is fictionalised, you do get a sense of the various characters and settings being ones which are close to the heart of the author – herself having been raised in Huntsville, Alabama in America but born in Mampong, Ghana.

Not since the publication of Alex Haley’s Roots (1976) has there been such a pivotal work which demonstrates the plights of slavery and its impact on future generations, albeit, perhaps, on a whirlwind tour in contrast to the depth of narrative to be found Roots. What perhaps comes through more clearly in Homegoing though is not only the importance of history and how it shapes us but also the fact that this history is to be celebrated as it is remembered. Its a past not only of suffering and shame but also of beauty and hope. As each character from each generation tells his or her story, the reader is reminded that every person is significant with a unique story to tell which are all intricately linked within a trail which forms a part of our identity and culture while not necessarily defining our destiny.

Homegoing is not only an inspirational novel but also a triumphant one because it resonates so well with each generation – from those who felt the full force of slavery to those who were arrested during civil rights marches along with those who made it into Stanford University, learning about their true yet often hidden ancestry and history along the way.  

Homegoing is a novel that reconnects culture with history, thereby enabling readers to make sense of the present while offering hope for the future because of the strength of the generations before, leading to the rich legacy they have left behind as a result. 

(C) Copyright 2017, Darell J Philip


10 thoughts on “BOOK REVIEW: HOMEGOING by Yaa Gyasi (2016) (Viking)

  1. Thank you for posting this thoughtful review (without spoilers). I am reading this book and the anxious me was looking for insight, maybe even a hint at how it all ends. I found your review and am reminded that patience with this read of Yaa Gyasi’s “Homegoing” must not be rushed, but savored.

    Good review!

      • I’ve just passed the halfway point and will share my thoughts once I’ve reached the book’s end.

        So far though, I can say that the sweeping, almost cinematographic, scenes are compelling. The character connections are dizzying, almost to the point you need to draw a family tree to keep it all straight in your mind. Kudos to Gyasi for this level of detail, because from a writer’s perspective that’s hard to create and then credibly maintain.

  2. Just a delayed response here…
    “Homegoing” was heartwarming, hopeful at its end–an affirmation of humanity. I have since read other books, like “Americanah” for instance, that look into the prism of home from and to the continent with different perspectives. Then there was “Barracoon” that poignantly illustrates the difficulty of negotiating a new home–a type of triage after our kidnap from home.

    Here’s to riveting summer reads!

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