Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing is centered in the 18th century in Gold Coast (present day Ghana). The book begins in Fanteland with two beautiful half-sisters who are not aware of each other’s existence. Effia is fifteen years old when she gets the attention of James Collins, the new British Governor. James pays Effia’s father thirty pounds and takes her to the Cape Coast castle as his mistress.
On the other hand, her half-sister, Esi, who is also fifteen, who was captured during a raid on her village (Asante land), finds herself in the dungeon right below the Cape Coast castle, where the slaves in transit to the Americas are kept. This is where the slavery of Esi and her generation begins.
The story moves over a period of 300 years, the book follows up to the seventh generation of both Effia and Esi, with each chapter introducing a central member of a particular generation for each side. The novel explores the slave trade and life in Gold Coast and the hardship blacks/slaves went through in the Americas. As the story builds up it shows what slavery has become in the Americas and how it changed the Gold Coast.
The most interesting and frustrating part of the book was its writing technique and structure (had to keep referring to the family tree at the front of the book). It was very clear that the author did a lot research to be able to capture what 18th century Ghana or 19th century America felt like back then.
I was totally amazed that this was a debut novel, because the writing was so damn good, and I love how the book shows that Africans are partially responsible for the enslavement of its own people. The book earns its title “Homegoing” in the final chapter, when Majorie (from Effia’s lineage) and Marcus (from Esi’s lineage) meet and then return home to Ghana. I recommend Homegoing without any reservation, and I cannot wait to see what Yaa Gyasi is going to publish next.
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