So much has been written about this book here on CBR, I almost had no choice but to read it. But I wasn’t in the right frame of mind when I finally got it from Overdrive. It took me days to get into it, and I read multiple books in between the early chapters. But I stuck with it because the premise was very good, and it has received near universal praise (both here, and in the broader literary world).
Sticking with a book that hasn’t grabbed me just isn’t something I typically do. I’ve given up on books on the first page, before. I typically don’t have a lot of patience. Life is too short, and there are far too many great books that I haven’t yet read, for me to spend my time trying to like something that isn’t working.
But I’m so very glad I stuck it out.
I probably don’t need to summarize the book, but I will. Homegoing follows the descendants of a single Asante woman living in the late-18th century Gold Coast of Africa. One of her daughters, Effia, marries a white Englishman. Her other daughter, Esi, is captured in a raid and sold into slavery. The novel traces the descendant generations of each woman, in Ghana and America, respectively. Each lineage is searching to find its place in the world. One line has found itself in a realm not of its choosing, unwelcome and oppressed; the other in the land of its ancestors, but searching for something new and meaningful. The two lines move in concert with one another, but completely independent and unaware.
It’s a monumental feat, and fits nicely into that niche that I’m just beginning to explore (first with Kindred, and eventually with Roots), but utterly fascinated by.
The book isn’t without its flaws, however. I felt like some of the stories weren’t developed quite as much as I would’ve liked. I would’ve liked more time with Maame, the matriarch, and H, the descendant who makes it through the Civil War only to fall victim to the pernicious convict lease program that soon re-enslaved countless black Americans until it was officially ended by FDR in 1941 (though re-branded forms do still exist).
This problem is, I think, inherent to the nature of this type of story. Told through snapshots over 200 years, some of the vignettes are inevitably going to feel like sketches instead of fully formed stories. But the sum is worth far more than the individual parts, here.
Of special note, I think, is the audiobook production read by Dominic Hoffmann.
He seamlessly switches between a believable West African and American accents, depending on whose chapters are being read. It added a texture to the story that I certainly would’ve lacked had I read the physical book. He really did a marvelous job reading the book. I found myself seamlessly switching between characters, and found them all to be authentic and believable. Sometimes, the audiobook can not only make a book more accessible, but actually enrich the story. Hoffman does that, here.
This has been reviewed 8 times, and has an average rating of 4.75 stars.