Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I came across this book after a recent episode of This is Us featured Rebecca and Randall discussing it. Both Randall and Rebecca confessed to sobbing at a key moment in the book. Deciding that I needed to get a hold of this book, I ordered myself a copy, only belatedly realising that I had already read Transcendent Kingdom, the author’s second book. Indeed, I had the very great privilege of hearing Yaa Gyasi reading an extract from it at last year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist readings. Her voice, lyrical yet authoritative, soft yet commanding, sent shivers down my spine as she read her work. And while I very much enjoyed Transcendent Kingdom, Homegoing, her debut novel, is sublime. I cannot fathom of anyone writing such an incredible, captivating, debut.
I was invested in every story told in this book, every character that was introduced, and the development of the narrative, as the focus shifts from one generation to the next, is masterful. The opening presents the reader with two sisters, one the “wife” of a slave trader, the other sold into slavery, although it seemed, that although one enjoyed a seemingly elevated position, both were somehow commodified by colonialism and a patriarchal society . Each chapter contains a story, one story of a life, before moving on to the next generation. The brutal reality of slavery casts a long, cold, shadow through the generations, so much so, that certain aspects of the book, including sexual trauma, and cruelty, were hard to read, and I often had tears in my eyes. Inter-generational trauma is very much at the heart of this novel, and Gyasi does not shy away from the complexities inherent in the system of slavery and how it is perpetuated, with thematic concerns about belonging, community, poverty and the value of education all thrown into the narrative with skill and empathy.
There were times in reading this book when I simply struggled to breathe, such is the beauty of the writing, the tragedy of the tale. Melodic and mesmerising, I lost myself in this book, and like Randall and Rebecca, found myself sobbing over the last story. I read a lot of books and I do not say this lightly: this is the best book I have read in a very long time. The story stays with you.
View all my reviews
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi