Jaclyn's Reviews > Homegoing

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
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really liked it

Homegoing is a fascinating novel. I'm a sucker for a deep, character-driven novel and I worried I would struggle with the structure of this one. It begins in 18th-century Africa and follows the descendents of two half-sisters who never knew each other to the present-day United States.

The novel starts out rich and engaging, and I was sad to leave the original characters behind. As I read, I had to make peace with the fact that some characters, I would never see again. There is a built-in lack of closure here, and it would have left me wanting more if not for the way everything gets braided together in the end.

That said, by necessity, more characters pile up as the book goes on. In the beginning, it's easy to see the connections between them. As we near present day, the author must resort to exposition that feels heavy-handed for a close-third POV. For example, even though this is first person because I'm feeling lazy: in my head, I never think, "my father, John, worked for several years as a truck driver for a nursery in Pennsylvania." It'd be more like: "I thought back to the years my dad spent driving trucks for the nursery." But in the context of an epic story, you need to know his name, so you can say, "oooooh, okay, this is John's daughter we're meeting here."

When bits of exposition and connecting details are inserted this way, they can pull the reader out of the zone. We become aware of the fact that we're reading, as opposed to staying immersed in the POV character's experience.

In the case of Homegoing, the plot is king, and the story here is really incredible. I loved seeing how everyone's story played out, and how these two parallel sets of ancestors built upon each other. I'd also never read any accounts of slavery, Jim Crow, and beyond that felt like this. Where we're taken out of the story to be told how a new character connects to the ones we know already, we're also drawn back in by the vividness of their lived experience.

All in all, Homegoing is an important book, and one I had trouble putting down. The ambitious structure required a little bit of flexibility on my part, but I was well rewarded in the end.

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Reading Progress

September 11, 2017 – Shelved
September 11, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
September 27, 2017 – Started Reading
October 9, 2017 – Finished Reading

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