My rating: 3 of 5 stars
How do you think did I get this scar? Yaw, one of the character in the novel asks his students. The latter come up with various replies. They are all speculating and when they are done, they ask their teacher Yaw for a finite answer. Yaw replies, ” I was only a baby. All I know is what I’ve heard.” This is perhaps one of the most important motif of the novel. What we hear or what is passed on to us is a matter of half-truth…..like the half-caste who stands neither here nor there. Yaa Gyasi’s novel is a sweeping saga of family history through generations. At times, one tends to get lost in the maze of trees that stand tall in the story – opposing pillars that are part of the same soil but that are drifted apart by powerful forces of greed, racism and prejudice. The story of two sisters Effia and Esi give way to multiple currents of thoughts. Like a river that runs into different directions, separating at some point from its own water, and then perhaps meeting at some other point, the saga too takes us to distant locations. But the stone, the symbol of the past, the connecting link goes along too – as a token or a reminder. It is the memory-keeper.
Another significant strand of the story is that the narrative of slavery is not one-sided in the novel. There are moments when victim and perpetrator meet, and become accomplices in crime. This re-emphasizes the fact that history is only a story – the dominant one is that which is spoken by those in power. It will only be partially true. Much of it will be a fabrication or a cover-up. When Marjorie writes her poem, it pinpoints to this very complicity –
We, two, wade.
The waters seem different
but are same.
Our same. Sister skin.
Who knew? Not me. Not you.
Those interested in understanding history as fiction, history as mere stories whose truths ought to be interrogated will find Homegoing a compelling read.