So everybody has been saying this is really good, and now after reading it, I can confirm that is indeed really good. You know, in case my star rating didn’t already do that for you and you need the actual words. THIS BOOK IS REALLY GOOD. There. It’s in all caps now, and everybody knows that all caps on the internet means serious business. And this is coming from somebody who rarely reads plain fiction anymore, and even more rarely is that literary fiction, because I just can’t stomach writers whose heads tend to spend most of their time up their own bottoms. Snobbery makes my insides twitch.
But this book is like, the opposite of snobbery. It’s so well-written and well-put together that the finished product ends up doing that thing I love in books where the words and the written-ness of it all just slips away, and the world, the story, and the characters are all that’s left. She uses a plain prose that could be taken for simple and unskilled by people who see complexity and assume it automatically means depth. But Gyasi doesn’t need flowery words or navel-gazing to achieve depth. She just does it.
This book begins on the Gold Coast of Africa, in the nation that is now Ghana, where two half-sisters from the Asante tribe are separated by circumstance. One marries a white British man, a slaver, and the other is kidnapped into slavery and taken to America. In alternating chapters that skip a generation each time, we follow both of their lines of descendants into the present day. I was a bit worried this would end up feeling messagey, what with the brilliant set-up being the perfect way to examine issues of race and class and legacy of slavery, but it’s the characters first. Which works anyway to get those points across, and works better, because you feel it first in the characters. It becomes real.
Even if you don’t normally read historical or literary fiction, I urge you to pick this book up. It’s a short read at 300 pages, and it’s worth every minute of time you spend on it.