Library Journal Review
Fiction can do what straightforward historical narrative cannot: compress 300 years of African American experience into a story that is at once cohesive and compelling. The saga begins in West Africa in the 18th century, when Effia, a beautiful girl in the Asante tribe, is married off to a British officer who oversees slave trafficking at a fortress on the Gold Coast. Thus starts an African family line that bears the curse of complicity in slavery. At the same time, Effia's half sister Esi is captured, endures the Middle Passage, and lands in America as a slave on a Southern plantation. Individual chapters take readers chronologically through pivotal historical moments and up to the present: living in Baltimore after the 1857 Dred Scott decision, Harlem during the Great Migration, a ghetto in the 1960s, and postcolonial Africa. Gyasi's characters are vividly drawn, sympathetic yet not simplistically heroic. It's wrenching to leave them behind, but readers will be quickly enthralled by the next generation's story. VERDICT This is an amazing first novel, remarkable in its epic vision. [See Prepub Alert, 1/4/16.]-Reba Leiding, emeritus, James Madison Univ. Lib., Harrisonburg, VA © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Gyasi's amazing debut offers an unforgettable, page-turning look at the histories of Ghana and America, as the author traces a single bloodline across seven generations, beginning with Ghanaian half-sisters Effia, who is married off to a British colonizer in the 1760s, and Esi, who is captured into the British slave-trading system around the same time. These women never meet, never know of each other's existence, yet in alternating narratives we see their respective families swell through the eyes of slaves, wanderers, union leaders, teachers, heroin addicts, and more-these often feel like linked short stories, with each descendent receiving his or her own chapter. Esi's descendants find themselves on the other side of the Atlantic, toiling on plantations in the American South before escaping to the North for freedom, while Effia's offspring become intertwined in the Gold Coast slave trade, until her grandson breaks away and disappears to live a simple existence with his true love. In both America and Ghana, prosperity rises and falls from parent to child, love comes and goes, and the characters' trust of white men wavers. These story elements purposely echo like ghosts-as history often repeats itself-yet Gyasi writes each narrative with remarkable freshness and subtlety. A marvelous novel. Agent: Eric Simonoff, WME Entertainment. (June) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Library Journal Review
This sweeping family saga encompasses seven generations of descendants of a Fante and his captured Asante house slave. After giving birth to a daughter, Maame manages to escape, making her way alone back to her own village. She is taken in by an Asante warrior, becomes his third wife, and has a second daughter by him. The two sisters, Effia and Esi, will never meet, their lives will follow very different paths, but their descendants will share a legacy of warfare and slavery. Effia will marry an Englishman who oversees the British interest in the Gold Coast slave trade. Esi will be captured by Fante warriors, traded to the Englishmen, and shipped to America to be sold into slavery. Progressing through 300 years of Ghanaian and American history, the narrative unfolds in a series of concise portraits of each sister's progeny that capture pivotal moments in each individual's life. Every portrait reads like a short story unto itself, making this volume a good choice for harried teens, yet Gyasi imbues the work with a remarkably seamless feel. Through the combined historical perspectives of each descendant, the author reveals that racism is often rooted in tribalism, greed, and the lust for power. Many students will be surprised to discover that the enslavement of Africans was not just a white man's crime. VERDICT Well researched, beautifully told, and easy to read, this title is destined to become required, as well as enlightening, reading for teens.-Cary Frostick, formerly at Mary Riley Styles Public Library, Falls Church, VA © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Booklist Review
This sometimes painful novel by Ghanaian author Gyasi has garnered much prepublication attention, including a blurb by Ta-Nehisi Coates. It traces, through the stories of two main families in alternating chapters proceeding chronologically, the history of Ghanaian and American civilization from the eighteenth century to the present, in Africa (where one branch of the family initially stays) and America (where the other goes). It opens with the horrors wrought by British enslavement of the Africans, especially the women, and goes through each stage efficiently. The author has done her research, and though the book occasionally reads like a historical overview (each element the beginning of cocoa cultivation in Ghana, the Fugitive Slave Act, and, later, the convict-lease system in America feels summarized rather than dealt with dramatically), it has power and beauty, thanks to Gyasi's commanding style. Expect the novel to attract considerable attention and to appeal to readers of multigenerational sagas.--Levine, Mark Copyright 2016 Booklist