If you love historical fiction as much as I do I highly recommend Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.
Homegoing covers 300 years of Ghanaian and American history in as many pages. Everything from the title (in slavery there is no homecoming, just homegoing) to the structure (each chapter tells a story about the next generation) to the writing is artful. Did I mention that this is Gyasi’s first novel?
This book is right up there with The Kitchen House and The Invention of Wings for providing a voice to those human and heroic souls that slavery suppressed and extinguished. It is also a breathtaking reminder of how little we know about that time in history. “We believe the one who has the power. He is the one who gets to write the story. So when you study history, you must always ask yourself, Whose story am I missing?"
The constraints of the structure, however, sort of make it impossible to become emotionally invested in one character, and this is perhaps my only complaint about this novel. Sometimes a key character leaves abruptly or stories are cut short, and what I originally hoped to get out of the experience is compromised. But maybe that’s the point. Isn’t that what slavery did to real people and lives?
Marcus, the book’s final descendent, is a Stamford graduate student who considers the ideal outcome for his thesis research: “How could he explain to Marjorie that what he wanted to capture with his project was the feeling of time, of having been a part of something that stretched so far back, was so impossible large, that it was easy to forget that she, and he, and everyone else, existed in it—not apart from it, but inside of it.” Exactly what Gyasi achieves with this work.
Best paired with Flaming Rum Punch.