RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewBecoming is refined and forthright, gracefully written and at times laugh-out-loud funny, with a humbler tone and less name-dropping than might be expected of one who is on chatting terms with the queen of England. One of Obama’s strengths is her ability to look back not from the high perch of celebrity or with the inevitability of hindsight but with the anxieties of the uncertain ... Even though we all know that she and Barack Obama end up getting married and having two kids, that he wins the 2008 Iowa caucuses and that they make it to the White House, she never takes any of it for granted. On the contrary, her tone is one of wonderment as to how this all happened. This gives the book’s first half, in particular, covering the part of her life we know least about, an unexpected suspense ... One of the great gifts of Obama’s book is her loving and frank bearing-witness to the lived experiences of the black working class, the invisible people who don’t make the evening news and whom not enough of us choose to see.\
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewThe West African chapters are the heart of the book, a deep channeling of multilayered humanity. Gyasi evokes what was lost to those who were sold away — the sense of individual and collective identity, a wealth of rituals and customs they’d be whipped for trying to retain in America ... Gyasi seems more interested in broadly exploring American social ills rather than immersing us in the lives of her characters. More disappointingly, the lyricism and depth of the scenes in West Africa give way to the coarser language and surface descriptions of life in America ... on the whole, African-Americans are shown as passive, boats buffeted by the currents. Rarely do we see the richness of their lives — the organized resistance, the faith in the face of near hopeless odds, the creativity and ritual that grew out of hardship. Still, the great, aching gift of the novel is that it offers, in its own way, the very thing that enslavement denied its descendants: the possibility of imagining the connection between the broken threads of their origins.