Book Review

Review – Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi


As a child Gifty would ask her parents to tell the story of their journey from Ghana to Alabama, seeking escape in myths of heroism and romance. When her father and brother succumb to the hard reality of immigrant life in the American South, their family of four becomes two – and the life Gifty dreamed of slips away.

Years later, desperate to understand the opioid addiction that destroyed her brother’s life, she turns to science for answers. But when her mother comes to stay, Gifty soon learns that the roots of their tangled traumas reach farther than she ever thought. Tracing her family’s story through continents and generations will take her deep into the dark heart of modern America.

Transcendent Kingdom is a searing story of love, loss and redemption, and the myriad ways we try to rebuild our lives from the rubble of our collective pasts.

My Review:

“What I’m saying is I didn’t grow up with a language for, a way to explain, to parse out, my self-loathing. I grew up only with my part, my little throbbing stone of self-hate that I carried around with me to church, to school, to all those places in my life that worked, it seems to me then, to affirm the idea that I was irreparably, fatally, wrong.”

Transcendent Kingdom, in a way, was completely different than Yaa Gyasi’s debut novel Homegoing. Following six generations journey from the Gold Coast Africa to the Southern states of America, Homegoing was epic in scale and captured the heart of millions of readers from all over the world with its sheer magnitude. Transcendent Kingdom, on the other hand, was much smaller in scale where we only followed one family’s journey from Ghana to Alabama USA, but my goodness I couldn’t look away, I couldn’t stop reading. It was equally emotive and intimate in a way that was different than Homegoing which I really loved.

This was a story about one family’s migration from Ghana to USA. With dual timelines intertwined between past and present, we were given a captivating story about how a family of four: father, mother, son and daughter became a family of two, where there were just Gifty and her mother left. It was a story about Gifty trying to excel in her professions as a neuroscientist so she could finally understand addiction which killed her brother and depression, the aftermath of the passing of her brother. It was about growing up in southern states of America and coming to terms with racism; it was about an intimate relationship between an individual and God.

To me, I would describe it as a “quiet” novel. It was an immensely moving and bittersweet story about trying to understand the world and yourself. It was quiet but it was through the everyday life, little by little that we finally knew ourselves. There was so much grief and sadness in the story but you came to understand them. It left you thinking hours after you finished the book. Even though there were parts about science that didn’t quite grip me but I wholeheartedly appreciated Yaa Gyasi’s attempt to deliver so many important topics in 260 pages.

Yaa Gyasi is no doubt one of my favourite authors of all time and whatever she writes I will read. Definitely recommend it.

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