Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi Book Review

Gifty is a talented and smart scientist, who studies addiction in mice in California to help fuel her understanding of the opoid addiction that has hit America (and her family) hard. One day she gets a call from the church pastor back in Alabama to say her mother is sick again with her mental health, which happened once before after Gifty's brother died from his addiction. Gifty brings her mother to live with her and as she struggles to help her mother get better, we learn through flashbacks what brought Gifty's parents from Ghana to Alabama and how their family of 4 turned into a family of 2.

The book touches upon many different topics, such as immigrants in America, race, addiction and religion. The observations were really well done but sometimes it wasn't really explored deeply. I thought most of the characters were well done, I could imagine them all and could clearly see Gifty's childhood. And I did feel for her family and their circumstances. However I felt like in the present, we don't get to see a lot of Gifty herself, despite being the narrator. She felt closed off, quite possibly by design given the story and her upbringing. But it felt hard to warm to her or even know her. The book felt quite clinical at times, which again, given the way Gifty is and also her work, does make sense. The plot jumps around a bit, the present timeline is only a week or two, whereas the past goes from before Gifty's birth to when she first goes away to college. And the flashbacks are not chronological, which I wasn't a fan of. The books talks heavily about religion and science, especially the intersection of these and I did not relate to either topic. Overall I don't think this was the book for me, I didn't look forward to picking it up and reading, which is usually a bad sign for me. A lot of care went into this novel though and it is well crafted. So I can see why people have really liked this book. I think it might resonate more with someone who has ties to spirituality and faith

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