Thursday, April 13, 2017


This was a very ambitious, very strong debut novel, that spans 300 years. It begins with two half-sisters in Ghana, and takes us through their lives and then the lives of their descendants, in parallel, in Africa and America, through the generations. Naturally, there are many lacunae; we pick up a new character not at birth but at age 50, for example. However, I didn't mind that; the narrative always orients us quickly, with a few important details, and brings us to the Important Moment in that character's life. This book is about race, yes; but also gender, power, silence, secrets, travel, displacement, laws, violence, education, drugs, memory, and family.

I have only two quibbles with it, and they're pretty minor. The first is the ending, which to me felt like it tied things up far too tidily for a book that otherwise suggests the roles of chaos, chance, and injustice in people's lives. Second, at times I felt a bit "preached to," through the characters. I'm not saying that the points aren't valid, and beautifully written. And I tended to agree with all of them. But here's an example:

"We believe the one who has the power. He is the one who gets to write the story. So, when you study history, you must always ask yourself, whose story am I missing? Whose voice was suppressed so that this voice could come forth? Once you have figured that out, you must find that story, too. From there, you begin to get a clearer, yet still imperfect, picture."

However, those are quibbles. This is a beautifully written, big-hearted book. I will definitely be on the lookout for her next!

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