Skip to content

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

homegoing

I just so happened to snag a signed copy of this book at book expo this year. This book is getting hyped all over the literary community. It comes out today in bookstores all across the U.S. Is it worth the hype?

The short answer is, yes. It is worth the hype and I encourage all of you to run out and buy it. Here’s the long answer (or my review):

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
First published: June 7, 2016
Reviewed by Jen
Rating: 4 stars
Find it/buy it here: Homegoing

Homegoing is Yaa Gyasi’s debut novel and if it’s any indication of her talent, we’ll be hearing a lot more about her in the years to come. The novel spans 300 years and traces the lives of one family from Ghana. It all starts with two half-sisters, Effia and Esi who are born in eighteenth century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and goes on to live in the upper levels of the Cape Coast Castle. Her half sister passes through the castle as a prisoner. Held deep in the dungeons below the castle, Esi is sold into slavery and shipped to America. Effia’s descendants remain, for the most part, in Africa whereas Esi’s descendants get swept up in the slave trade and are born and raised in the United States.

Chapters alternate between Effia’s family line and Esi’s line, with each chapter focusing on a different generation. The novel is about the impacts of captivity and slavery on the soul of a people. Gyasi doesn’t just focus on the actions of White men (colonialists and American slavers). Both Effia’s and Esi’s descents become weighed down by the actions perpetrated by all sorts of people: both the Whites responsible for buying slaves, the Africans who captured and sold slaves, and the every day people whose inaction served to reinforce the system.  Perhaps the novel’s main message is best captured by the following passage:

When someone does wrong, whether it is you or me, whether it is mother or father, whether it is the Gold Coast man or the white man, it is like a fisherman casting a net into the water. He keeps only the one or two fish that he needs to feed himself and puts the rest in the water, thinking that their lives will go back to normal. No one forgets that they were once captive, even if they are now free. But still, Yaw, you have to let yourself be free.”

Gyasi’s characters highlight the many ways in which slavery impacted all generations. Her characters are complex and incredibly varied. Some act in almost incomprehensible ways (abandoning children, betraying others) while others show great sacrifice and strength. As a result Gyasi creates a complex and highly ambitious novel.

I loved the book. I was drawn in immediately and I enjoyed following the generations of family members. The novel was heart-breaking at times and always thought-provoking. I felt the heavy weight of history bearing down on these characters and my heart was filled with that same heaviness as I contemplated all the themes.  I have read many books that focus on the impact of slavery or colonialism but Gyasi’s book was the first one I’ve read that highlighted the ways in which both the free and the enslaved were impacted by the system. I did think that the chapters focused in Africa and on Effia’s family were much stronger than those in the US and at times Gyasi seems to write very stereotypically about black struggles in the US, but overall I thought the book was a great debut. I highly recommend this book.

I came to these waters and I could feel the spirits of our ancestors calling to me. Some were free, and they spoke to me from the sand, but others were trapped deep, deep, deep in the water so that I had to wade out to hear their voices. I waded so far, the water almost took me down to meet those spirits that were trapped so deep in the sea that they would never be free. When they were living they had not known where they came from, and so dead, they did not know how to get to dry land.

Want to try it for yourself? The book comes out today and you can buy your copy here: Homegoing.

Would you like a chance to win a signed copy of the book? Turns out I am also getting a signed first edition as part of my Powell’s Indiespensables subscription (a subscription service you should check out). Since I don’t need two copies, I will give one away to a lucky winner. The prize is only open to readers in the US unless you are willing to pay for shipping charges overseas. Raffle closes on Sunday.

The Winner of the signed copy is… Annapi. Congrats! I will send you an email with the details.

We want to hear from you. Do you plan on reading this book? Why or why not? 

26 Comments Post a comment
  1. Tracy S #

    I’ve had this on my wish list since I heard of it in March, and can’t wait for my copy to get here! I’m glad that it’s as good as the hype.

    Liked by 1 person

    June 7, 2016
  2. I’m glad you liked it. This has moved up my TBR list. I would love to win a copy do I don’t have to wait for the library to get it.

    Liked by 1 person

    June 7, 2016
    • Great, the raffle opens at midnight tonight – sorry, I used the free version so couldn’t update the start time. Good luck!

      Like

      June 7, 2016
  3. Tessa #

    Even more interested now that I’ve read your review. Definitely sounds like a book I would appreciate and enjoy.

    Liked by 1 person

    June 7, 2016
    • Yes, I think you will like it.

      Like

      June 7, 2016
      • Tessa #

        Not sure if I entered or not …. but either way, I’ll definitely read this.

        Liked by 1 person

        June 8, 2016
      • Actually, rafflecopter only gives me updates every few hours so I may not be seeing yours yet even if you entered correctly. I will check tonight to make sure you have been counted as an entree

        Like

        June 8, 2016
    • I don’t see your entry in there. Now that you’ve commented, click on the rafflecopter link in my post and follow instructions to enter the raffle. I will let you know if I see your name pop up in the entries

      Like

      June 8, 2016
  4. That sounds great. I’ve had to wish list it, because it’s not out in the UK until January next year!

    Liked by 1 person

    June 7, 2016
    • If you want to enter I can check the shipping costs and if you are willing to cover those (and you win), I will send. That changes my Man Booker predictions (which I’m preparing now for next month). I think the book has to be published in the uK before fall of 2016 in order to qualify for the nomination.

      FYI: just ordered your folio society book – it took a while and some back and forth phone calls because their system isn’t set up to allow billing from US account to send to a UK address. And the Marcus books is finally on its way after I made a mistake on the shipping form and it was sent back to me. So it should be an exciting month of prizes for you.

      Like

      June 7, 2016
      • I’m being strong and not entering the draw. My physical TBR is teetering, it’s so high, and somehow I came home from the library with 5 books instead of my usual 3, because the library staff have started doing eye-catching displays and I have limited self-control! I can defer my Gyasi gratification until the new year, I’m sure.

        Liked by 1 person

        June 7, 2016
  5. Can’t wait to read this one!

    Liked by 1 person

    June 7, 2016
    • I hope you like it! I will be looking forward to reading your review.

      Liked by 1 person

      June 7, 2016
  6. I’d like to give this a try, it sounds interesting!

    Liked by 1 person

    June 8, 2016
  7. Charisma #

    I haven’t heard of it before, but what you put in your review sounds interesting to me. I am pretty sure, I will love the book and the story. So I would like a chance to win it, otherwise will have to wait for it to show up in the library.

    Liked by 1 person

    June 8, 2016
  8. Nicole R #

    I originally assumed by the description that this must be a 1,000 page tome to cover 300 years in Africa and the U.S., but the 300 page count plus your stellar review has me convinced that it is a must read.

    Liked by 1 person

    June 8, 2016
    • I hope you like it! It surprised me how much she did in only 300 pages but think of each chapter like a snapshot not a detailed analysis.

      Like

      June 8, 2016
  9. Argee #

    Great review. This is a must read and sounds impressive for a debut novel. I am also entering the raffle.

    Liked by 1 person

    June 9, 2016
  10. Very thoughtful review! I thoroughly enjoyed Homegoing as well and was so impressed with Gyasi. I agree that this is probably the only book I’ve read about slavery that highlighted the impact on the enslaved as well as the free. I am, however, surprised to hear you say that you connected with the storyline that took place in Africa more than the American one. I do think some of the issues faced by the American characters fell into somewhat familiar archetypes, but I also feel like Gyasi highlights how and why those archetypes exist – namely, due to histories of slavery and oppression. I felt that Gyasi did an effective job of filling out the details of those particular characters’ lives so they felt like real people, not just stereotypes. And in so doing, she shed a lot of light on the experience of black people in the US that all people need to be more deeply aware of now more than ever. Nevertheless, I really like your review and your thoughts on Homegoing! Also, I am totally going to sign up for the Powell’s subscription service – thanks for the tip!

    Liked by 1 person

    July 23, 2016
    • Thanks. It’s not that I didn’t like the US part but just that I personally found the pieces in Africa to be more nuanced than the US pieces that did feel a little like stereotypes. Yes, she does highlight why they exist but I found her portrayals to be a little less sophisticated than her portrayals of the family that stayed in Africa. I just finished Coates’ Between the World and Me and felt like his description of being black in America was much more sophisticated while at the same time highlighting the role of history in creating those experiences. Thanks for commenting! It’s interesting to hear other people’s thoughts on the book. I am glad you liked it too! And Powell’s is great! This month we got Barkskins

      Liked by 1 person

      July 23, 2016
      • I would have to agree that no one captures what it’s like to be black in America quite as well as Coates. He gave Homegoing a rave review which is actually how I found out about it in the first place. I think Homegoing and Between the World and Me should both be required reading these days!

        Liked by 1 person

        July 23, 2016

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Our top ten books of 2016 | The Reader's Room

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: