Top 10 Books of 2020: Number 2

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Homegoing is Yaa Gyasi’s debut novel, published in 2016. Her second novel, Transcendent Kingdom, was good, but having read it right on the heels of Homegoing, I much, much preferred the first. This book is incredibly engrossing, and I found myself wanting to read just one more chapter while also wanting to save and savor it.

The book follows two daughters of one woman – they don’t know each other, and they never will. One daughter is captured and taken to America as a slave. The other marries a British official and stays in Africa. Each chapter that follows is a story from one of their descendants, ending many generations later. Because of this structure, Homegoing almost works like a series of short stories with a theme, rather than a cohesive novel. Nevertheless, I loved this book. Part of it is definitely because I find myself wondering what happened to characters after the novel ends – and this book repeatedly scratches that itch for me. Sometimes, the lives of the characters improve and their descendants are better off, but often, they’re worse off or face consequences their ancestors never intended.

That’s another thing I loved about this book – sure, it’s sweet and romantic when two characters abandon their settled lives to start fresh where no one knows them. But when the story picks up with their daughter, we find that while the couple was happy, their circumstances have been dire for many years – so much so that no one wants to marry the daughter because they believe she’s cursed. Consequences abound when a story has to carry over multiple generations. But the stories are both heartbreaking and satisfying.

I’ll be honest, I don’t tend to gravitate towards novels about African culture. I have relatively little understanding of it, and I probably wouldn’t have picked this on my own if it weren’t for Barnes and Noble choosing Transcendent Kingdom as one of their book club picks. But I am so glad that I read this book. It was so well done, from start to finish.

Read Homegoing. You won’t regret it.