Author: Yaa Gyasi
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf 2016
Hardcover Edition: 300 pages
Source: Personal Copy
In this novel the ambitious storytelling does not detract from the enjoyment of the tale, but rather stimulates thinking concerning an element of western history that may well receive much attention, but I dare say not the scrutiny that is available given the structure and beautiful telling of this tale. Aspects of this novel help the reader to better understand slavery, forced immigration, family and power in new ways.
Throughout the book readers alternate between two settlings: The Gold Coast of West Africa and America’s Eastern Seaboard. This comes about because we follow seven generations as the story traces the events of family members descended from two half sisters, Effia and Esi born into different villages in 18th century Ghana. Each chapter could perhaps be described as a vignette telling the story of a particular descendent.
Though any piece stands alone, it is the accumulation of story that lends the novel its mighty power. Interest grew for this reader as I moved with the characters through the years and changed circumstances. It is not only the terror and horror of people stacked many deep in the bottom of a slave ship, but what people are able to make of the limited circumstances of their lives and the wisdom they are able to share.
Readers see some of the historical events and eras we may be somewhat familiar with played out before us with a new angle, with new details slanted in a unexpected direction, surprising connections joined or twisted into fresh configurations. This novel is to my mind an inspiring and creative work of art. I am grateful to have read these tales. And I became more grateful as I read each chapter. Yes, this book grew on me and I heartily recommend it.