Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyassi

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyassi is narrated by Gifty, a PhD candidate in neuroscience researching on addictive behaviour. She told a harrowing story of her family through science and religion. 

Gifty’s parents migrated from Ghana to America her brother hoping for a betterment in their life. Her mother worked as a caretaker of elderly patients and her father had a hard time looking for a job but eventually had to take menial job. Gifty was born a few years later. Their family is religious and goes to church regularly. Gifty thought she had a pretty decent childhood but when the reality of immigrant life in Alabama hit harshly on them, her father returned to Ghana, leaving his wife with two children and never returned.

Gifty loved her brother Nana dearly much. He was good at sport and played basketball in high school team. When he was injured in a game and hurt his ankle, Nana was prescribed opioids and he quickly became addicted to it. When Gifty was 11, her brother died of an overdose and from that her mother fell into a deep depression. She had to start taking care of herself. As a bright scholar and driven by her curiosity to find out about the nature of her brother’s addiction, she pursued in neuroscience studying addictive behaviour.

Throughout the story, Gifty recounts her brother’s opioid addiction and her mother’s depression intertwined with her current research work. The mother-daughter theme was poignantly executed in a nuanced way. Their different coping mechanism after the death of Nana led to a frail relationship between them. In this book, Gifty’s self discovery through science and her faith is gradually constructed but what I love the most is the sturdiness in the narrative. Though I find the ending a little idle in my opinion, it was an intriguing read from cover to cover. I like her debut novel Homegoing better than this one but Transcendent Kingdom is without a doubt, a beneficial read and gives different thought-provoking things for me to ponder.


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