Transcendent Kingdom ~ by Yah Gyasi

This had been on my wish list for some time but then a bookish friend recommended it so I upped its place in the “line.”   I’m glad she did.  It’s quite good.  So good in fact I may have to revisit shortly.  I read her debut novel,  Homegoing, a few years ago (2017) and my review is at the link. (This one is the better book.)

Transcendent Kingdom
by Yah Gyasi 2020 / (288 pages)
Read by Bahni Turpin 8h 40m 
Rating:  9 / 
contemp fiction

The novel is very ambitious involving a multitude of themes like immigrants from Ghana to Alabama.  Whole novels have been written on the “contemporary immigrant experience” alone.   The first person narrator, Gifty, is a graduate student working toward a PhD in neuroscience so there’s another theme with “the battle of science vs God.”  I’m not sure if I’ve ever read a novel with that theme.  

In Alabama Gifty has her mother, her father (The Chin-chin Man)  and her older brother, Nana.  Nana is also very bright as well as athletic.  Mom is religious. And Dad ,,, well, Dad goes back to Ghana and stays there. So Nana becomes addicted to heroin and Mom gets very ill.  “Loss and grief” are pervasive and powerful themes and very much a part of the immigrant experience.

Meanwhile, our protagonist is torn between her belief in God and her scientific ideas. She has problems with her mother who does not handle the losses of her husband and son very well.   She’s already having problems adapting to the US and the racism of Alabama, and then she gets problems with her boyfriend who wants them to marry.  The tale is not necessarily told in chronological order but that doesn’t seem to matter. Perhaps it’s part of the whole deal when things kind of pile up on you.

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