Ambitious, lyrical and teachable, this debut novel from Gyasi is little short of astonishing. It starts with Ghana in the 18th century and ends in the heyday of Harlem. It focuses on two half-sisters and the path that they (and their families) take. It is a story about how choices — the ones we make for ourselves and the ones made for us — have implications for us and our suceeding generations. Yes, all this in a neat 300 pages. Along the way, she shows a flair for the small description and the profound (if sometimes heavy-handed) insight.
The discussions of the nature of “home” and the issue of “coming” vs. “going” are worth the price of admission. The characters – though I needed regular glances at the family tree – are rich, and I generally regretted when Gyasi moved on to another generation. The plots for each generation stand on their own and are so tightly woven with the past and future that I can’t imagine the planning that went into this novel. And, to her credit, Gyasi is equally adept at depicting male and female characters.
There is much to discuss, debate, research and write about here. In other words, I hope to use it in the classroom one day. And I look forward to whatever she does next.