15 June 2016
Two half sisters, an ocean and a world away, give birth to two completely different dynasties. Homegoing follows these families through interwoven tales of love, heartbreak, classism, racism and the struggle of identity, giving us snippets of lives that are at once beautiful in their complexity and unflinchingly real.
Effia, known as the beauty, marries a white soldier in Fanteland and remains blithely unaware of the nature of her husband’s business. Her descendants prosper, selling rival tribes into slavery – her half sister Effi among them. Effi’s daughter Ness is enslaved in Alabama, working the fields and enduring unimaginable toil. As the story moved between these two lives, following their children and grandchildren, a sweeping epic emerges. The role of duty, family, and love in these lives will be called into question, and choices made in the past echo throughout generations.
What is masterful about Gyasi is the way she writes without blame or victimization. The characters leap off the page, full of complications and human error. Ta-Nehisi Coates, in his review, stated that “sin comes in all forms,” and Gyasi demonstrates the full range of human emotions and actions in an elegant and finely wrought prose. I would have eagerly read the full stories of each of her characters, if only to spend more time with her voice.
Echoing the works of Solomon Northrup or Lawrence Hill, Homegoing is nothing short of a masterpiece.