Across the centuries and across the Atlantic Ocean stretches the story of Effia and Esi. Born at the end of the 18th century in the former British colony which now is Ghana, their lives develop completely different and we follow the line of the blood. From rivalling tribes in Africa, over slavery, from basic schooling in missionary schools to higher education, from the African jungle to the jungle of the modern metropolis: We see the legacy that the two sisters have given with their blood, how generations later their story is not forgotten and how even across centuries and borders the struggles for a self-determined and independent life is fought – yet, often without success. Maybe there is something as a curse that can be engraved in a family.
The story starts at a rather slow pace when we are presented the story in Ghana more than two hundred years ago. We get an idea of the living conditions and especially of the structure of an African village. What I found most interesting about this part of the story was the role that women had in the community, especially how different wives could “share” a husband and find a somehow acceptable arrangement with the situation. Additionally, the fights between the tribes were fascinating since this something which is completely different from our European history. The colonialization part shed another light on Africa – the struggle between the indigenous population and the British coloniser. Here, the religious aspects were most intriguing. There is another aspect which always looms over the story: to what extent is the belief in evil a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy? In America, we rush from the slaves of the southern states over the times of the Civil Rights Movement to our days where still the colour of your skin is a decisive factor.
Yaa Gyasi’s novel is full of singular topics which cannot all be addressed in a short review. The most striking feature is how she manages to follow the line of the two families over the time and how they recall their ancestors and things connected to them. There is some kind of family remembrance which is really touching. All in all, a wonderful, with words colourfully depicted novel which gives you a lot of food for thought particularly about Africa and how the people’s perception there might differ from ours.