Ambitious in scope and impressive in execution, Homegoing (Knopf, $26.95) begins in eighteenth-century Ghana with the stories of Esi and Effia, half-sisters—though they don’t know that—whose lives take wildly different paths. Deftly charting parallel histories, debut novelist Yaa Gyasi follows Esi as she is captured by British slave-traders, taken across the Atlantic, and sold into bondage, and, without missing a beat, also traces Effia’s more materially comfortable fate as the wife of the white British governor in charge of overseeing operations related to the export of human chattel. The narrative chronicles both sides of the women’s sundered family, tracing their descendants through seven generations and three hundred years of American and Ghanaian history. In alternating perspectives, Gyasi introduces Esi’s and Effia’s many children, cousins, and spouses, narrating their various experiences and fortunes. These richly told episodes could stand alone as satisfying short stories; as parts of Gyasi’s colorful epic-scale project, they echo larger themes in telling and surprising ways. The combination of Gyasi’s often lyrical prose, the brutal events and lasting joys she recounts, and the diverse, personable characters, make this a haunting and powerful tale of African American life from the collapse of the ancient Ashanti Empire and the callousness of European colonialism to the Great Migration, the Harlem Renaissance, and post-colonial Ghana.
Homegoing - Yaa Gyasi