That Time I Experienced A New History: Homegoing Book Review

That Time I Experienced A New History: Homegoing Book ReviewHomegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Published by Alfred A. Knopf on 7 June 2016
Genres: Adult Historical Fiction
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Source: Owned Book
Goodreads

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.

Hello Loves!

It’s Back-to-School week on the blog. With that in mind I’d thought I’d share my thoughts on a latest read that left me feeling like I experienced a whole new history. And really I did. Read below for more of my thoughts.

Also, if you’re sort on time, then check out my Need to Know section for a quick summary of my review!

Ownership: Own  
Genre:
Adult Historical Fiction  
Publisher:
 Knof
Published: 2016
Pages:
 305
Price:
$26.95 (hardcover)
Place: Amazon,  B & N, Book DepositoryGoodReads, IndieBound

My Rating:

five stars

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi follows two half sisters, Effia & Esi. Both sisters were born in Ghana & ended up on two different paths. The novel chronicles the generations that follow from Effia & Esi. Esi’s descendants make their way to America via the slave trade; while Effia’s remain in Ghana. “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.” (from GoodReads).  Each chapter presents a different point of view from a new descendant of Effia or Esi. The novel continues that way until almost present-day.

Homegoing was a beautiful & heartbreaking novel. Gyasi did a wonderful job of bringing to life the history of these two sisters & showcasing some of Ghana & America throughout history. I felt riveted to every page as I watched both Effia & Esi’s generational lines unfold. None of their descendants had it easy. It was hard to read at some points and all I wanted to do was reach in and give each character a hug. The characters that Gyasi created were that well developed. I felt like each chapter (and subsequent POV) had a distinct voice from the previous chapter. I kept hoping that one of them would eventually have an easier time and I did see that a bit at the end with the closer to present-day descendants.

In terms of writing style, I really enjoyed that Gyasi decided to write the novel with a new character’s POV each chapter. I did flip back to the front of the book a lot to remind myself who the character was a son/daughter of and what generational line he/she belonged to, but otherwise I didn’t find any trouble transitioning into the new chapters/character’s POV. Gyasi did a great job of making each character’s “ending” seemed resolved before transitioning to the new character/POV. While I did want to sometimes read more from a particular character’s POV, I still felt like Gyasi concluded each character’s storyline. That isn’t to say that some of the characters didn’t appear in other chapters. Gyasi does a great job of interweaving characters as well as making sure that each chapter was that particular character’s story.

I enjoyed reading about Ghana and the country throughout the history of these characters. Ghana isn’t a country I really encountered in any of my studies, so being able to experience the country through this novel was eye-opening and entertaining. I really felt like I had been transported there and transported to early America.

As I mentioned above, this story was a hard one to read at times. Gyasi doesn’t stray from the hardships the Ghanaian people had to face both in their own country and as slaves in early America. Seeing the discrimination and the treatment of these characters was heartbreaking to read & experience. It really makes you take a step back and evaluate the privilege in your own life.

This book definitely made me think & it opened up my eyes to a history & point of view that I’m not as familiar with. It took me on an experience through time and through a nation of people that I think everyone should encounter. I’d definitely recommend this to anyone. I enjoyed the story so much, but I think I enjoyed the perspective it gave me more. Also I loved how Gyasi brought the story to an end. It was well done. Overall, this is a 5 star read that I’d recommend to any reader, especially one interested in history and family relationships. It was a great story from a great new voice and one that I think will become a lasting best-seller.


  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi follows two half sisters, Effia & Esi. Both sisters were born in Ghana & ended up on two different paths. The novel chronicles the generations that follow from Effia & Esi. Esi’s descendants make their way to America via the slave trade; while Effia’s remain in Ghana.
  • Homegoing was a beautiful & heartbreaking novel. Gyasi did a wonderful job of bringing to life the history of these two sisters & showcasing some of Ghana & America throughout history. I felt riveted to every page as I watched both Effia & Esi’s generational lines unfold.
  • In terms of writing style, I really enjoyed that Gyasi decided to write the novel with a new character’s POV each chapter. I didn’t find any trouble transitioning into the new chapters/character’s POV. Gyasi did a great job of making each character’s “ending” seemed resolved before transitioning to the new character/POV.
  • I enjoyed reading about Ghana and the country throughout the history of these characters. Ghana isn’t a country I really encountered in any of my studies, so being able to experience the country through this novel was eye-opening and entertaining. I really felt like I had been transported there and transported to early America.
  • Gyasi doesn’t stray from the hardships the Ghanaian people had to face both in their own country and as slaves in early America. Seeing the discrimination and the treatment of these characters was heartbreaking to read & experience. It really makes you take a step back and evaluate the privilege in your own life.
  • 5 STARS! This book definitely made me think & it opened up my eyes to a history & point of view that I’m not as familiar with. It took me on an experience through time and through a nation of people that I think everyone should encounter. I’d definitely recommend this to anyone.

Thanks for stopping by! Let me know if you’ve read this book and if so what are your thoughts on Effia & Esi’s descendants’ pathways? What did you think of how Gyasi wrote this novel? What did you think of experiencing Ghana and early America? I’d love to hear your thoughts below in the comments!  

As always, Happy Reading!

*Disclaimer: None of my links on this post or on this blog are affiliate links. If I ever begin to participate in affiliate links, I will let you know. 🙂

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Hello! NicoleLynn here! I’m a twenty-something avid reader & lover of all things bookish! I enjoy both coffee & tea, a good slice of pie and cuddling with my kitty. I haunt libraries, cafés & bookstores 🙂 Then I write about all these things! ♥

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