Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

Gifty was born in the American South, the second of two children. Her parents are Ghanaian immigrants, whose move to the US was not quite a shared dream. The family’s first reduced to three when her father abandons them and returns to Ghana, and later reduced to two. A father who left. A dead brother. A broken mother.

Transcendent Kingdom is an intelligently crafted novel, where the protagonist seeks to understand her family’s tragedy through science. While studying the neural circuits of reward-seeking behaviour in mice at Stanford, Gifty is also trying to understand her late brother’s addiction and behaviour.

Gyasi digs into mental illness deeper than most novels do. The story also analyses the dynamics of a disintegrated family, and the relationship between parent and child. Through the mother’s devotions, and Gifty’s questioning we see the play around faith and science.

Transcendent Kingdom is her second novel, following the critically acclaimed Homegoing (which sat at the top of my favourites for years). The two are completely different stories but share Gyasi’s undeniable talent to make us see the world in a different or new way, on a deep and personal level.  

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Autodidact & Bibliophile

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