I was fortunate enough to get my hands on an advanced reading copy of Yaa Gyasi’s wonderful first novel Homecoming. Spanning multiple generations the novel follows the lives of two sisters separated at birth and their diverging destinies.
The novel tackles big, meaty issues such as the origins of the slave trade in Africa, notions of race and identity and the importance of language and ones mother tongue. It is a novel that has something important to say and could not help but be mesmerised by her storytelling voice. It is not long before you become invested in the lives of Effia, Esi and their descendants. I was angered by their suffering, touched by their struggles and hopeful for their futures. With each new generation, fresh struggles surface and old ones resurface doomed almost to be repeated.
Gyasi’s real skill is that as soon as I found myself growing attached to a particular character, their story would end and another’s would begin, sometimes with characters overlapping in stories. Then I would begin the process of falling in love with a character all over again only for their story to abruptly end and for the characters to be taken away from me, thereby mirroring the feelings of the very characters I was reading on the page. The structure of the novel therefore works to increase the reader’s sense of loss but also displacement. We follow each new generation as they move from place to place, never really able to settle.
After reading this novel I have little doubt that it will become a mainstay in the canon of post-colonial literature. For anyone interested in or studying slavery in particular, this is a must read.