**From the bestselling author of Homegoing comes a searing novel of love and loss, addiction and redemption, straight from the heart of contemporary America.**
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 history through continents and generations will take her deep into the dark heart of modern America.
CW: this book contains mentions of drug addiction, death, grief, mental ill health, and racism.
I loved Homegoing, so when I heard Yaa Gyasi was due to release a new book I jumped at the chance to read it. And I was not disappointed. Transcendent Kingdom is in many ways different from Homegoing, although some of the same themes of family, belonging and identity are echoed here as well, but it is nevertheless a captivating and emotional read that confirms Yaa Gyasi as a great author – and a must-read one for me.
Transcendent Kingdom is narrated by Gifty in a non-linear way, moving seamlessly between childhood memories, her present life and her reflections on life and its meaning, science, religion and lots more. I’m not usually a fan of non-linear narration so I was a bit worried about this going in, but to my surprise I actually got into the style quite quickly and I felt it worked perfectly as a reflection of Gifty’s emotional and mental state.
Gifty was a really compelling character. Her struggle to make sense of life and loss, looking at religion and then science to provide answers to explain her deep suffering and grief, and to find ways to avoid it happening to others, made for a highly emotional and multilayered read. Some of the detail of both Gifty’s experiments and her religious experience felt like it was a bit too much for me, and took me away from the main reflections, but that’s just personal preference.
This is an emotionally charged book, dealing with themes such as addiction, loss and grief, migration, discrimination, and mental health. Despite that (or maybe because it doesn’t shy away from difficult topics), it is an engrossing read. The easy flow of Yaa Gyasi’s beautiful style drew me right into Gifty’s mind, asking with her, how do you keep going when your whole world comes crashing down around you?