This is the story of two half-sisters from eighteenth century Ghana and their decedents. Effia was married to a white Englishman while Esi was sold into slavery and was forced onto a ship to America. Their stories and their children’s and grandchildren’s stories couldn’t be more different but there are always connections to the past.
Homegoing is a phenomenal book. Through following two sisters and their families, it covers three hundred years of history. Each chapter follows a different character, alternating between Effia’s family and Esi’s family. Each chapter is like a snapshot at a certain point in history and while you only get one chapter with a character you still learn more about the previous generations that you’ve already read about through that chapter. This means while you’re always meeting new characters or getting their story from their point of view for the first time, the past and the characters you’ve already encountered are not forgotten about. This is really interesting because you as the reader tend to know more about these characters’ families and their history than the characters do. It’s interesting to see if stories from the past are passed down through the generations and what is remembered or what is forgotten. All these characters you encounter are flawed and interesting and you want them to do well and not make the same mistakes their parents did or to do better for themselves like their parents wanted. The writing in Homegoing is great because you do become invested in these characters even if you don’t spend much time with them and there is some beautiful writing in this book.
By following a family through multiple generations, from the 1700’s to the start of the twenty-first century, you can also see how things changed both in Ghana and in America. There’s how Ghana came to be a country called Ghana and the slave trade on the Gold Coast and colonial rule. While in America there’s slaves working on cotton plantations, the Jim Crow laws and the Civil Rights Movement. Sometimes it is a bit difficult to pinpoint where exactly in history you are but the events unfolding around these characters helps give you an idea where the story is set.
Homegoing is such a compelling read. I read it in two days and I haven’t done that with a book, especially a “literary book”, in forever. This family and how traits and personalities are passed down or how one mistake or action can not only effect the next generation but future generations was fascinating.
Homegoing does tackle some tough subjects such as rape and violence and drug use and it never shies away from it but it is never overly judgemental either. Homegoing is a truly enlightening read because it unapologetically shows you what life was like for black people in America over the years, and how white people (mostly the British) colonising Africa affected generations.
I cannot recommend Homegoing enough. It has beautiful writing, a compelling and clever story and it’s an eye-opening and important book. 5/5.