Homegoing — No Story Left Untold
“This is the problem of history. We cannot know that which we were not there to see and hear and experience ourselves. We must rely upon the words of others.”
I have mixed feelings about Homegoing. The story is split up into about a dozen vignettes, each telling the story of the successive generations of two family lines. At first, as I was reading the book, I found it hard to keep track of who everyone was and which family tree each person belonged to. The stories didn’t intertwine almost at all at times, so remembering whose grandma was whose got confusing. There were markers and little hints that were dropped here and there, if you read closely enough, you would pick up on them so at to follow more easily.
Aside from the choppiness of the read, each story was, isolated from the pack, incredible. The first few stories were so captivating and heart wrenching, I remember hoping that at one point, Gyasi would get back to this storyline or the other so I could read more about Esi or Quey or whoever—I think she could’ve written 14 individual novels, one on each character; that’s how rich each story was.
The novel dates back well over a hundred years ago, at the beginning of the slave trade in Africa. I don’t know what my obsession is with the history of slavery, but I’ve read over a handful of books on the topic this past year alone. The best way to learn about history is by listening or reading individual accounts, not some textbook told from the perspective of the winning country. And so goes my addiction to reading anything about slavery, the Holocaust, World War I or II, revolutions, the Franco civil war, the Great Depression…
Gyasi paints a vivid and at times horrifying portrait of the inhumanity that shaped a race. From Africa and England to America, the slave trade is described with great and atrocious detail. I wanted to look away at times, but my eyes were glued to the pages, I had to know what happened next. Well, we all know what happened. It’s not based on fiction unfortunately.
Homegoing is not a story for the weak-stomached. However, neither is anything that’s good in life. I read this book for a book club and there was so much to discuss. We talked about each of the stories, little history lessons took place, and some beautifully written verses were recited. Gyasi wrote an incredible novel; I look forward to reading more from her.