“Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi explores what home means for those affected by slavery

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi was one of my books of 2018 . It explores the concept of “home” by telling the story of the lives of two sisters. One of these sisters is sold into slavery and transported to America and the other marries a slave trader and remains in Ghana. This is an historical novel with a wide scope as the author follows the families of the sisters from one generation to another and with the family tale she shows us the varied lives experienced by Black people because of slavery.

Not all these individual stories are very happy but this is not a sad or harrowing book. Instead it is a book about individuals who all act and react in a perfectly normal way to the situation which comes about because people are sold. The characterisation is very well done and you care about each new generation whilst comparing the experiences of the two family lines. The author manages to write on both a large scale to talk about social issues and a small scale as she discusses the details in the lives of individuals.

Despite the scale of the story this is not a hugely long book and the author finishes it beautifully. Despite all these individuals being affected by the evils of slavery the book is still hopeful and celebrates the ability of the human spirit to survive.

There are many good novels depicting slavery and I have not read widely in this particular sub-genre but I would compare this with The Color Purple by Alice Walker and Beloved by Toni Morrison both of which I have read. Unlike those two books this story does not constrain itself to the experience of enslaved and later freed people in America but also sets half the story in Ghana giving us an insight into that culture and society as well.

This is a marvellous book, beautifully written and easy to read despite the subject matter. I highly recommend it.

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