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by Yaa Gyasi
Order:  USA  Can
Bond Street Books, 2016 (2016)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

Told from an African perspective, this is a history of what slavery did to two branches of a family, continuing right down to present day. A sister is taken away from Ghana on a slave ship, and her children and grandchildren are raised in slavery.

Her half sister marries an Englishman who oversees the capture and shipment of slaves. Though she lives in a castle in Ghana, she still suffers under the effects of slavery, knowing her husband has an English wife at home and feeling the antagonism and jealousy of her own people over her fate. Her progeny are subject to the Fante and Asante wars.

It is a good thing we have a family tree at the beginning of the book it is a most useful resource, as author Gyasi shifts from branch to branch with each chapter. Her writing places us directly in the time of the person we are learning about, recalling things we knew about the last generation to tie the story together. So we end up with telling details about each generation and a historical range of the consequences of this practice.

For the U.S. reader, it is easy to fill in the blanks of each time period in the United States. But Ghana's history may not be as well known so it is hard to grasp what is really happening there over the centuries. Gyasi's writing is lyrical, so for her tale this may not really matter because we are made to feel what has happened.

As a debut novel, this complex and sweeping tale shows that the author has great command of her theme and characters over the many generations she chronicles. Most interesting!

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