Winner of the 2016 BookBrowse Debut Novel Award
A novel of breathtaking sweep and emotional power that traces three hundred years in Ghana and along the way also becomes a truly great American novel. Extraordinary for its exquisite language, its implacable sorrow, its soaring beauty, and for its monumental portrait of the forces that shape families and nations, Homegoing heralds the arrival of a major new voice in contemporary fiction.
Two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle's dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast's booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia's descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.
Generation after generation, Yaa Gyasi's magisterial first novel sets the fate of the individual against the obliterating movements of time, delivering unforgettable characters whose lives were shaped by historical forces beyond their control. Homegoing is a tremendous reading experience, not to be missed, by an astonishingly gifted young writer.
The night Effia Otcher was born into the musky heat of Fanteland, a fire raged through the woods just outside her father's compound. It moved quickly, tearing a path for days. It lived off the air; it slept in caves and hid in trees; it burned, up and through, unconcerned with what wreckage it left behind, until it reached an Asante village. There, it disappeared, becoming one with the night.
Effia's father, Cobbe Otcher, left his first wife, Baaba, with the new baby so that he might survey the damage to his yams, that most precious crop known far and wide to sustain families. Cobbe had lost seven yams, and he felt each loss as a blow to his own family. He knew then that the memory of the fire that burned, then fled, would haunt him, his children, and his children's children for as long as the line continued. When he came back into Baaba's hut to find Effia, the child of the night's fire, shrieking into the air, he looked at his wife and said, "We will ...
...This marvelous debut succeeds in creating an impressive sweep by the sheer dint of powerful writing and narrative scope. “In my village we have a saying about separated sisters,” Esi’s mom tells her. “They are like a woman and her reflection, doomed to stay on opposite sides of the pond.” An ambitious saga that moves back and forth across these “opposite sides of the pond” and weaves a rich and colorful tapestry, Homegoing is an emotionally resonant debut that hints at great things yet to come from an immensely talented storyteller.
(Reviewed by Poornima Apte).
Full Review (638 words).
Homegoing is set against the backdrop of the Gold Coast slave trade. Protagonists Efii and Esi, the two half-sisters, come from warring states in 18th century Ghana, the Ashantis and the Fantes.
The Ashanti Nation was a loose group of fiefdoms, an ethnic subgroup that was formed in 17th century Ghana as a trading coalition with the Europeans. The foreigners, mostly Portuguese, were initially most interested in the gold ores hence the subsequent name, Gold Coast. While the beginnings of the Ashanti (also spelled Ashante) were not very rigid, it was consolidated by the leader Osei Tutu who created a constitution and installed a seat of power in Kumasi. Osei Tutu served as defacto king and the region's most important natural ...
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