Wow, was this an excellent book. Minor complaints aside (and every single book we read will have them, as no piece of art- aka book, is perfect. There will always be at least a few small flaws or areas the book leaves us wanting), this one packed a wallop and kept me totally engaged in the three days I blew through it.
The book switches narration with every chapter, offering us an alternate perspective and experience. A totally different life lens, though all are interconnected, with each part.
Here’s how it starts: Sometime in the late eighteenth century, Maame, an Asante slave in a Fante household, flees into the bush during a fire, leaving behind her newborn daughter, who survives. Soon afterward, Maame marries an Asante “Big Man” and gives birth to another girl.
Her older daughter, Effia, stays behind in Africa, as the wife of a British official; while her half sister, Esi, once the pampered darling of a powerful father, is captured by raiders from another village, sold to the British, and brought to America.
Each chapter of the novel is narrated from the perspective of a descendant of either Effia or Esi. However, each one is a world of its own. Though they are connected from afar, the experiences and life of each person is wildly different.
From a drug addicted man, to a different man whose wife is stolen from him and their family. A couple who is torn apart by her husbands weakness and being pulled over to a more racist, cowardly side of himself, to a man who spends his life working underground in the mines. A slave couple who, not speaking until several months into their marriage (an arranged one) end up developing a tender, heartfelt union, to a physically scarred man who falls in love with his housekeeper, the two having an unexpected though incredibly sweet love story.
Moving through the book, with every chapter read, I concluded, wow, that was the best one yet. So powerful, so emotionally moving, as well as gripping. And then I would read the next chapter and find myself thinking exactly the same thing.
So many tender, poignant scenes, as well as shocking and jaw dropping ones. The prose is terrific, aside from too many metaphors including butterflies. My only other slight qualm with the book: there were so many characters, it was challenging to keep them straight and to remember, oh wait, this person is connected to that person, and that person was…who again? This was a bit tough and disconnecting at moments. Even taking me out of the story in my worrying about needing to remember the specifics of who each person was.
To solve this, I decided on and then found it much easier to enjoy and allow myself to fall fully into the story(s) on considering instead of it being one central, connected story, that actually, it was a collection of separate stories all sharing a tenuous link. I thought of them as distinct stories from one another. This made each one far more immersive and enjoyable.
This book will keep you turning the pages. Its an emotionally riveting ride to be sure.