4.5 stars. I hate to say I sometimes judge books by their covers, but it’s the truth. It wasn’t until I saw the stunning UK cover that I really stopped and paid attention to this book everyone has raved about. No regrets! This was a stunning debut novel and absolutely worth a read.
Homegoing is a generational tale that starts with two half sisters in the Gold Coast, Effia and Esi. One becomes the wife of a white slave trader and the other is sold into slavery, unbeknownst to her sister. The way this book is structured, we check in with each side of the family once every generation. Although every chapter is telling one larger story, it feels like you’re reading interwoven short stories. I was really afraid that I wouldn’t connect to each character and that the story would feel disjointed, but Gyasi did a masterful job of making each character interesting and almost immediately immersing you in their world. Some characters were more memorable and/or likeable than others, but each one was fascinating in their own right.
By formatting her story this way, Gyasi is able to tell a larger story about the fissure caused by the slave trade between African communities and the African diaspora while also telling smaller, personal stories. I saw the ending the story would land on from nearly the beginning, but the beauty was in getting there. By the time you reach the end, you’ve traveled through centuries of stories on two continents and the narrative feels like a rich tapestry.
For audiobook lovers, I’d definitely recommend this one. The narrator, Dominic Hoffman, had to realistically voice Ghanaian, American, and British accents. That alone is a big ask and he was up to the challenge. But he also did a wonderful job of infusing the many varied characters with a wide range of personalities and emotions. As a man narrating female characters as well as male ones, he resisted the urge many male narrators have to mimic a higher register which usually comes off as patronizing, offensive, and/or distracting.
I really enjoyed experiencing many characters in various locations throughout the last few centuries. It’s not a perfect book, but it’s a damn good one and an impressive debut. Can’t wait to read what Yaa Gyasi writes next!