Saturday, July 23, 2016

Still Another Local Author - with Another Debut Novel - and Another Excellent Book

Wow.  There must be something in the air.  I keep reading local authors, oftentimes with debut novels, and finding them to be totally terrific.  Am I lucky or what?  (This is where you're supposed to say:  "It's not luck.  It's your literary intuition and skill!")  In fact, books for my last 5 local authors have gotten ratings of 3.25, 3.5, 3.25, 3.5, and 3.75.  Not too shabby (as Adam Sandler says in The Hanukkah Song).

Yaa Gyasi's novel, Homegoing, can best be summed up as sweeping.  It starts in Ghana in the mid-1700s and ends up in America in the present day.  Let the flap set the stage:

Two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, are born into different villages in eighteenth century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle.  Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle's dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast's booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery.  One thread of Homegoing follows Effia's descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fanta and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization.  The other thread follows Esi and her children into America.  From the plantations of the South to the Civil war and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.

Doesn't this sound good?  Well, it is.  In fact, it's immediately going on my rec table (tomorrow? maybe.  Next Sunday? for sure).  Do you know what hit me when I was reading Homegoing?  It's that the writing is just consistently good.  As you know, oftentimes I will share a few lines or passages that stand out for me.  But that didn't happen with this one. And I think it's because it was well-written throughout.  That's impressive!

Here's another interesting commentary on the book.  I didn't have a bunch of emotional reactions to characters.  There were definitely some.  I have notes that say "Unh," "Whoa," "Huh," and even a "No, no, no, no."  I also had a combo of smile, tears, and chills all at once.  But it wasn't every character and every generation.  This did NOT detract from my enjoyment of the book.  When you're telling the story of 8 different generations x 2 different families, it's a little more difficult to form those emotional attachments.  However, I was still totally caught up in each story.  And I give Yaa credit for making basically 16 different sections of the book in only 300 pages just the right length.  I was never anxious to leave a particular character.  But I also was okay going on to the next one.

In case you haven't already figured it out, I really liked this book...a lot.  I highly recommend it.


  1. It's on my hold list at the library. Can't wait!

    1. Whether they're local or not, it's just crazy how many good authors there are!