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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

Review: Homegoing

Homegoing: A novel - Yaa Gyasi

In Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi takes an unconventional approach to a novel and does it well. From its start in Ghana, Homegoing begins with two half-sisters and follows their descendants through seven generations. Each chapter reads like its own short story; ties to the previous generation are sometimes barely visible and so each must stand on its own. That said, this novel reads in many ways like a collection of interconnected short stories. And like any collection, some stories are stronger than others.

Given its structure, Homegoing is a very fast read. This was okay for some of the chapters, as I never connected with the character or story. Others, however, could've easily been turned into full-length novels. There are heartbreaking moments involving wonderful characters. Throughout the whole novel—I keep wanting to call it a collection—throughout the novel, the imagery and language are of a high caliber. Gyasi is evidently capable of weaving a wonderful story. I believe the only thing that keeps this particular novel from being its best is a level of disconnect. In some of the mid to mid-later chapters, some characters lack full realization. It seems to me as if the author wasn't as invested in their stories; perhaps she wasn't as in love with these characters as she was with those in the earlier and later generations. Despite this hiccup, and an overly glib final few pages,Homegoing is a vividly drawn portrait of a family that is well worth savoring.

Not only is it tempting to call this “novel” a collection, it's extremely difficult to not call it Homecoming. I had to go back through this review and correct a couple of those mistakes. It's a great title, but I suspect I'm not the only one struggling to call it the right name.