A million dollar debut, won in a ten-bidder auction, is on the verge of becoming the literary hit of the summer, Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi (RH/Knopf; RH Audio; BOT; OverDrive Sample).
It is featured on multiple seasonal reading lists including those by The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, B&N, and BuzzFeed and is both an Indie Next selection and a LibraryReads selection, with this recommendation from Amanda Monson, of the Bartow County Library System, Cartersville, GA:
“An engaging family saga following two half-sisters – one who marries into privilege and one sold into slavery – and their descendants as they navigate the politics of their separate countries and their heritage. Each is directly affected in some way by the choices of the past, and finding the parallels in the triumphs and heartbreak makes for an engrossing read.”
The novel is gaining serious and thoughtful review coverage as well, in pieces that note Gyasi’s achievements while pointing out perceived lapses. NPR’s Maureen Corrigan reviewing it on Fresh Air yesterday, says Gyasi “pulls her readers deep into her characters’ lives through the force of her empathetic imagination,” but adding, “Homegoing would have been a stronger novel if it had ended sooner .. As the novel moves forward into our own time the pressure to wrap up the two storylines intensifies, and contrivance comes to the fore.” NPR also interviewed Gyasi for Weekend Edition Saturday.
Slate‘s books and culture columnist, Laura Miller, writing for The New Yorker, says that the novel “shows the unmistakable touch of a gifted writer, and Homegoing is a specimen of what such a writer can do when she bites off more than she is ready to chew” adding, “Taken in as a panorama, Homegoing can be breathtaking.”
Reviewing for the upcoming NYT Sunday Book Review, Isabel Wilkerson, author of the nonfiction title, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, says, barring some troubling clichés, the novel is a work of “beauty” and “The narrative unfolds through self-contained stories, some like fables, others nightmares, that shift between the family lines in West Africa and America, each new protagonist a limb of the disrupted family tree. Characters reappear in dreams or retellings as the action moves from the Cape Coast to Kumasi to Baltimore to Harlem.”
The WSJ profiles the author and offers a review [subscription may be required], saying “Ms. Gyasi doesn’t always make it work … Yet it’s refreshing to read a novel with a sense of historical imminence. Contemporary American fiction frequently seems to exist in blank isolation from world events. Not so Homegoing, where wars and laws directly shape the characters’ destinies, often across generations.”
The million-dollar advance serves as a hook for media attention, catching the eye of high circulation magazines such as Vogue, which runs a double profile of Gyasi and Emma Cline, author of another big-ticket summer debut, The Girls, complete with a photo of the two together in designer outfits, because they “bear comparison for more than the ambition and incisiveness of their prose, imaginative risk-taking, and seven-figure book deals.” Of Homecoming, Vogue says, “No novel has better illustrated the way in which racism became institutionalized in this country.”