Book Review: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

There’s more at stake here than just slavery, my brother. It’s a question of who will own the land, the people, the power. You cannot stick a knife in a goat and then say, Now I will remove my knife slowly, so let things be easy and clean, let there be no mess. There will always be blood.

Book Review

Title: Homegoing

Author: Yaa Gyasi

Category: Historical Fiction

I had intended to read this book during the month of February so that I get to commemorate the Black History Month with the rest of the world, but I guess at times we tend to plan things not taking into account other responsibilities bestowed to us. I won’t spend a lot of time rumbling about how hard I find it these days to just pick up a book and read it religiously and have my thoughts and take pinned up on time. So let me just dive into what I thought about this book.

I had read a lot of great reviews of this book. Reviews that got my curiosity piqued and indeed, I looked forward to finally read this book. When picked it up about a month ago, I had the highest expectations only for it to turn out to be a comme ci comme ça read! I’ll let you know why.

This book follows the descendants of two half-sisters; Efi and Esi, who are born in different villages in Ghana during the 18th Century. 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 other Ghanaians into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her descendants will be raised in slavery. What follows is the struggle of the descendants, generation after generation bearing the hardships of slavery and racism.

Now here’s my problem with the book and why I found it bleh. Every chapter brought in a new character. And not in an alternating manner but a totally new character that made it hard for me to follow the story seamlessly. I found myself going back to the family tree to try and figure out if the new character introduced was a descendant of Effia’s or Esi’s. No room is given to the reader to form any sort of attachment with the characters. It came to point where I felt like was being tossed from one goal post to the other with no closure whatsoever! The chapter will abruptly end with no in-depth resolutions until you read at least two chapters later where you find a link to the character shared, in two or three sentences.

I was highly disappointed and I felt like discarding the book at some point but the curiosity of knowing how it will all come to a halt and whether my disappointments will be resolved somehow kept me flipping the pages. And as you can already guess, that didn’t happen until the last two chapters. Have I also mentioned how I page marked only two pages of this entire book? TWO! For someone who always looks forward to quotes and passages to borrow from, this was rather irking.

I wouldn’t want to say that it was an overly bad read because I found myself enjoying some of the chapters once I got a hang of the characters, (which was short lived by the way) but the fact that it’s the author’s debut, I want to believe that it has offered her room to work on the misgivings of it and yes, put up a seamless, relatable read next time. In conclusion, it’s a commendable debut but doesn’t live up to the hype and accolades. Well, at least not for me.

Have you read the book? What was your reaction to it?

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi”

  1. Great review Lyndah. I have had this book on my TBR for ages but I have also been reluctant to read it especially after I heard about all the characters. It sounds really confusing so I guess I won’t be reading it anytime soon. Sorry to hear that your expectations weren’t met.

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