This is an impressive debut novel, and very ambitious. It begins in Ghana in the 1700s, and starts with the stories of Effia and Esi, half-sisters who will never meet. Each succeeding chapter details the life of one of their descendants; one side of the family stays in Ghana, the other ends up in slavery in America. Through the compare-and-contrast narrative, we see terrible things: slavery, post-slavery society in the U.S., oppression, racism (systemic and individual), drugs, mental illness, but also fierce love and a life-driving desire for love, for family, for a better life. Let's put it this way: If you know some condescending clod who says things like, "Why are Black people still so angry?" This would be a good book to hand to them.
That's not to say it's not without faults. The narrative structure is much richer in the beginning than it is by the end. I read that the author received a seven-figure advance for this debut, and I wonder (without knowing if she wrote the book pretty much in order) if she had more time to write and revise and less pressure with the first half than the last half. The characters are less richly portrayed, the plots seem more rushed, and the writing toward the end is just not as polished. The final story has a major plot point that I'm not really truly sure I buy.
That said, the first half of the book was so good that I will absolutely seek out her next book.