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Homegoing
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2017 TOB -The Books > Homegoing

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message 1: by Amy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Amy (asawatzky) | 1656 comments space to discuss Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi


Ruthiella | 340 comments This book was so hyped so I heard quite a bit about it, both negative and positive, prior to reading it for the TOB.

I know that some readers would have preferred more time with the characters and sections but I didn’t mind the brevity. I felt that by keeping the entries short the author was really able to show the social, economic, cultural, etc. changes that took place in both the U.S. and Ghana over two centuries. I think I would have lost sight of that sweep if the book had been longer.

I did think, however, that the beginning of the book was a lot stronger than the later sections. In particular, the last two chapters fell apart for me as they slid in to the realm of the supernatural and racial memory. It didn’t seem to be in keeping with the realism expressed in the earlier chapters.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 607 comments Ruthiella wrote: "I did think, however, that the beginning of the book was a lot stronger than the later sections. In particular, the last two chapters fell apart for me as they slid in to the realm of the supernatural and racial memory. It didn’t seem to be in keeping with the realism expressed in the earlier chapters. "

I agree with you, Ruthiella. I felt bad for not being over the moon about this book, because I felt like I was expected to have that feeling. But it feels like a first novel to me in how the pacing kind of falls apart, how the beginning is stronger than the end, how the threads are straggling near the end. I get what she was trying to do but it didn't need the supernatural elements. The story of the two sisters was good enough and strong enough and absolutely my favorite part of the novel.


Gretchen (gretchena) | 7 comments I agree that the ending was not as strong - felt more of the authorial hand trying to get the plot points out. But I'm willing to take that messier ending for the benefit of the rest of the book.

I read this one with no spoilers - literally all I'd read was the Millions blurb - so I didn't have major expectations, and I loved it.

This was my Zombie pick...fingers crossed!


Melanie Greene (dakimel) | 236 comments My zombie pick, too! I loved this one. Loved her mastery of the format, the huge diversity and variety of the voices. The imagery.


Melanie Greene (dakimel) | 236 comments This interview from today (2/10) makes me love Homegoing even more, since it shows that Gyasi was so deliberate about everything she did that I loved:
https://chireviewofbooks.com/2017/02/...


Kristel (kristelh) | 27 comments I really liked this book, too. I also was my zombie pick.


message 8: by Amy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Amy (asawatzky) | 1656 comments I loved Gyasi's interview on the daily show - it was all about the wound that is the loss of heritage for African-Americans and how the two sides of the story were aiming to heal at least that rift in this line of descendants. Once I started letting go of my need to keep following a single protagonist, I saw how much narrative she was accomplishing: essentially the "suppressed story" of two entire countries for 300 years. I found it far more successful than the lauded Underground Railroad.


Sherri (sherribark) | 358 comments I'll share a story to go along with this book. I spent two summers in Ghana during college (a long time ago!) I've toured this castle and played on the beach around it. It is a beautiful setting, hiding an unspeakable past.

In the castle, our host closed us into one of the cells below for just a few seconds. Then he said: now imagine being thrown in here with 200 people -- you are literally on top of each other in the blackness, fighting for food; no place to go to the bathroom; people often dying beneath you or on top of you.

When I toured that castle, I could be horrified by the stories, but I could also put that in the "terrible things that happened hundreds of years ago" bucket. The importance of Homegoing for me then, was showing that the story didn't end when they left that castle or when slavery ended.


message 10: by Amy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Amy (asawatzky) | 1656 comments Yes! H's story especially brought that home for me (and reminded me I still need to watch "The 13th" about that very point).


message 11: by Drew (new) - rated it 5 stars

Drew (drewlynn) | 416 comments Amy wrote: "I found it far more successful than the lauded Underground Railroad. "

Ditto. Gyasi's stories were so much more compelling to me.


message 12: by jo (new) - rated it 4 stars

jo | 429 comments how sad is this book? i need to move on to the next book but i don't want to be killed by sadness.


Kristel (kristelh) | 27 comments jo wrote: "how sad is this book? i need to move on to the next book but i don't want to be killed by sadness."

I didn't think it was terribly sad but there is a couple of 'tough' sections but I found it to be fast reading.


Melanie Greene (dakimel) | 236 comments Drew wrote: "Amy wrote: "I found it far more successful than the lauded Underground Railroad. "

Ditto. Gyasi's stories were so much more compelling to me."


Also more compelling than Barkskins, which I read right after (not prob the best idea if I wanted to give Proulx a fair chance) and which felt like a pale (heh) shadow of what Gyasi did with her 'generations of descendants and their interactions with the history of their lands' book.


Peggy | 171 comments This book got my zombie vote. Its scope and imagination and insight astounded. I agree the back half was somewhat less successful (for me, Sonny's chapter was the weakest) but I didn't really care. The writing carried me through.


message 16: by Gayla (new) - added it

Gayla Bassham (sophronisba) | 156 comments I know this is going to be compared a lot to The Underground Railroad, but I kind of hate that -- I loved both books but I think they're very different and doing different things.

I do think the ending was a bit weak -- that is an issue with so many novels -- but I did admire what Gyasi was trying to do and thought she was largely successful.


message 17: by Drew (new) - rated it 5 stars

Drew (drewlynn) | 416 comments Sorry to compare these books right after you said you hate that, Gayle, but I found Homegoing much more emotionally appealing despite only staying with each character for one chapter. The Underground Railroad was more of an intellectual exercise for me. Both excellent books, though!


message 18: by Drew (new) - rated it 5 stars

Drew (drewlynn) | 416 comments Sorry, Gayla, and since I'm on the app I can't go back and correct your name. :(


Katie | 127 comments I think the brevity added to the book for me. The overarching takeaway that the burden/pain/structuralization of racism happened (and is happening) fluidly over time and that impact is felt so similarly by each generation even if the structure is different. I happened to read Homegoing right after reading the non fiction book The Warmth of Other Suns and the combination was powerful and both were favorites of my 2016 reading year. I do agree that the end was a little too fluffy bow on it but I can give that a pass.


message 20: by Gayla (new) - added it

Gayla Bassham (sophronisba) | 156 comments That's interesting, Katie, because I was just saying earlier in The Underground Railroad thread that I thought it was a good combination with The Warmth of Other Suns.


Katie | 127 comments Shortly after reading it I read The New Jim Crow and Fear Itself - Homegoing and The Underground Railroad were both interesting fiction in conjunction with that group of non-fiction (as was The Turner House, a 2015 book that I read in the same general timespan this year and loved).


Kristina (kristina3880) | 35 comments Just finished this book today and was blown away. I agree that I also found the first half to be stronger than the last half. However, I am certainly not taking away from this author's brilliant work. I still can not get over this is a debut novel.


message 23: by jo (new) - rated it 4 stars

jo | 429 comments okay so everyone agrees that the first half works better than the second. i concur. but i can't quite pinpoint why. can you guys?


Ruthiella | 340 comments jo wrote: "okay so everyone agrees that the first half works better than the second. i concur. but i can't quite pinpoint why. can you guys?"
For me it was the addition of the mystical in the last two chapters. That just came out of nowhere for me. And also the conclusion with the polished stone. It don't think the book needed that. The reader is smart enough to connect the dots without that.


Katie | 127 comments I read this one a while ago but thinking back my feeling was that the last part just felt a little forced. The flow of lives and time through the first 3/4 felt pretty seamless which was a real wonder to read. But by the end when they are back in Africa it felt rushed or forced it just didn't have the same natural sequential feeling and emotion. But it didn't overshadow the entirety of the book which was one of my favorites of the year (and tournament).


message 26: by jo (new) - rated it 4 stars

jo | 429 comments i finished this and i'll write a review shortly. i have no problem with the last two chapters, or any of the sections of the second part, in themselves, but i just found myself going from deeply engaged to sort of dragging myself along. i don't mind the conclusion either, mystic or not mystic -- it's just not very gripping. off the top of my head, i'd say that last gripping chapter was that of H in the coal mine.


message 27: by Amy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Amy (asawatzky) | 1656 comments I think for me the difference between the two halves was whether I allowed myself to get attached to a character or not... the first half kept hooking me into specific people and then their part ended so in the second half I kept my distance. However in the second half I paid more attention to the story of America that was being told as a character itself (not as much to Ghana) and that kept me engaged. If I hadn't made the switch I would have lost patience.


message 28: by Amy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Amy (asawatzky) | 1656 comments Though H's arc was probably a high (if super awful) point for me.


message 29: by jo (new) - rated it 4 stars

jo | 429 comments Amy wrote: "I think for me the difference between the two halves was whether I allowed myself to get attached to a character or not... the first half kept hooking me into specific people and then their part en..."

the switch from one character to the next?


Daniel Sevitt | 81 comments I guess I kinda enjoyed Homegoing, although it felt at times that someone brought Alex Haley's Roots and The Joy Luck Club into their MFA seminar and workshopped them into this. It was a nice book (faint praise? check!) but it had nothing especially new to say to the reader, unlike The Underground Railroad - a significantly more mature work.


message 31: by Gayla (new) - added it

Gayla Bassham (sophronisba) | 156 comments I think you're a tiny bit hard on Homegoing, which I loved, but if forced to choose between them I do think The Underground Railroad is the better book and the book that left me with more to think about.

Both books were on my top ten list from last year, but The Underground Railroad is the one I want to go back to.


Trish | 33 comments And I land in the opposite camp. The Underground Railroad presented the subject matter from a view I had already been exposed to in various ways though my education and reading life. But Homegoing came at the legacy of slavery from a different direction to what I am used to; covering such a length of history and the impact on more than just American culture.

I also feel that Homegoing told its story in a more internally Black narrative, without positioning African / African-American experience in opposition to white (which UR and most American slave narratives do). There were white people in Homegoing, of course, but most of the scenes were not centered on the conflict between white/Black. But the conflict and impact of slavery was just as present.


message 33: by Amy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Amy (asawatzky) | 1656 comments jo wrote: "Amy wrote: "I think for me the difference between the two halves was whether I allowed myself to get attached to a character or not... the first half kept hooking me into specific people and then t..."

the mental switch in expectations of narrative (I usually want character-driven... this was more history-driven)


message 34: by The (new) - rated it 5 stars

The Peaceful | 1 comments "One of my goals with this book was having it be this way to restore family, a fuller family to a group of people who were so traumatically cut off." - Yaa Gyasi.

I honestly felt that the ending PERFECTLY captured the entire aim of the book and tied it in very nicely with the title and structure: A single road (genetic lineage) bifurcated by trauma/colonialism/slavery, each going its own path & each so well kept-up-with, then converging beautifully at the end.


Alison Hardtmann (ridgewaygirl) | 452 comments Both UR and Homegoing were among my absolute favorites this year. I don't think we have to choose between books that have slavery as the subject matter, nor do we need to pit them against each other.

What occasionally frustrates me about the ToB, but which I also think is its strength, is that it makes no effort to have two similar books compete with each other. I was dying last year to compare The Turner House with A Spool of Blue Thread, but it's more interesting to instead have Homegoing go up against SWoH. I think it will win handily, but it will be a fun match-up.


Nadine - California (nadinekc) | 550 comments Alison wrote: "Both UR and Homegoing were among my absolute favorites this year. I don't think we have to choose between books that have slavery as the subject matter, nor do we need to pit them against each othe..."

Also two of my favorites this year. Comparing them is fun, but ranking them feels like standardized testing - a flawed and simplistic measure of something complex. But the beauty of ToB is that the discussions bring the complexity back.


Mainon (bravenewbooks) | 91 comments I loved this book, whereas I found Underground Railroad a bit of a slog (I'm still not finished with it). Gyasi is undertaking (in my opinion) a more ambitious project, and a more complex one.

Sonny's story is where the book lost steam for me. (And was an extra shame, coming so soon after the extraordinary highs of H's story. Rarely has just a character's name communicated so much pathos!) But Sonny for the first time felt like a character introduced for the purpose of illustrating something overtly preachy, rather than as just someone whose story is being told.


message 38: by Adam (new) - rated it 4 stars

Adam (adamstephenhall) I hate being a dunce, but what was Willie's first husband's job when they met in the bathroom with the suited men? Is it implied in a way I missed, or was it just general shadiness?


Ruthiella | 340 comments Adam wrote: "I hate being a dunce, but what was Willie's first husband's job when they met in the bathroom with the suited men? Is it implied in a way I missed, or was it just general shadiness?"
I don't think it was specified. My idea was that it was some kind of white collar office or sales job that a black man of that era in NYC could not have held.


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Books mentioned in this topic

Barkskins (other topics)
Homegoing (other topics)

Authors mentioned in this topic

Yaa Gyasi (other topics)