Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi is one of the books from the 2017 Tournament of Books. This book is essentially about two half sisters and their descendants lives as one becomes rich from the slave trade and remains in Africa and one is forced into slavery in America. The book does this by going back and forth between each lineage and spending only one chapter on each person as main characters. The next time the lineage gets its turn it is instead narrated by the offspring of the last character. The only problem I have with this book is that it can be hard to determine what time period you are in or how old the chapter character is at the start of each chapter, although after a few pages you can figure out what is going on so it wasn’t too bad.
All of the characters feel incredibly fleshed out and real despite their short time as main characters and I would happily read an entire novel about each of them. The book also has different structures for each person. Some chapters begin in adulthood and only focus on one or two days as the character narrates the story of their life and other chapters start out with adults and spend years with them. Meanwhile some other chapters start when the protagonist is a child. It was very engaging especially when some of the chapters end before the conclusion and you are left wondering what happened to the characters while others play out to their conclusion. Finally some characters reappear as parents in their children’s stories while others, often through the horrors around them, are cut off from their families and we don’t know what happened to them.
The book also deals with several themes including evil being passed from generation to generation, responsibility and guilt. It also asks questions like who is ultimately responsible for the horror of slavery?, are people whose families have done horrible things responsible for them? and how can we piece back the stories of family lineage and history when we might not have details for a lot of it?
Availability: SMCM, USMAI, COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Madeline Rivard
Rating: Highly Recommended
Challenge: Tournament of Books
Read Kaitlyn Grigsby-Hall’s review of Homegoing.