Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi is a novel, but it could just as easily be described as an interlinked short story collection, following the very different fates of two sisters and their subsequent decendants. Effia and Esi share a mother but spend their lives apart, living in separate villages. The distance between them stretches wider when Effia is married off to an English soldier and Esi is captured and sold into slavery. Neither have a choice in their futures.
The following chapters trail across continents and centuries, detailing the lives of their children and grandchildren, up to the present day. Effia’s family remains in Ghana, while Esi is taken across to American. The ambitious novel encompasses a range of important historical and cultural moments, but what is notable is how slow attitudes are to change and how heart-breaking it is that individuals are often judged on their race, background, nationality, history etc instead of their actions and character.
I wish we could have spent more time with each character, particularly Esi and Effia. It often felt as if the moment you came to know a character you were moved onto the next, and while the next chapter often shed light on the fate of the previous generation it would have been interesting to linger a little longer. Kojo and Willie’s stories particularly stood out for me.
At the end of the novel the two estranged strands of the family are reunited even travelling together to the Ghanian coast, and the very castle where the story begins. There is a sense that the story has come full circle, that something like fate reunites the two sisters’ descendants.
Homegoing is an beautifully written novel that offers a stark, honest portrayal of slavery, colonialism, racism and intolerance across two centuries.