Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
Gifty is a fifth-year candidate in neuroscience at Stanford School of Medicine studying reward-seeking behavior in mice and the neural circuits of depression and addiction. Her brother, Nana, was a gifted high school athlete who died of a heroin overdose after a knee injury left him hooked on OxyContin. Her suicidal mother is living in her bed. Gifty is determined to discover the scientific basis for the suffering she sees all around her.
But even as she turns to the hard sciences to unlock the mystery of her family’s loss, she finds herself hungering for her childhood faith and grappling with the evangelical church in which she was raised, whose promise of salvation remains as tantalizing as it is elusive. Transcendent Kingdom is a deeply moving portrait of a family of Ghanaian immigrants ravaged by depression and addiction and grief–a novel about faith, science, religion, love. Exquisitely written, emotionally searing, this is an exceptionally powerful follow-up to Gyasi’s phenomenal debut.
Whenever I think of my mother, I picture a queen-sized bed with her lying in it, a practiced stillness filling the room.
When I read Yaa Gyasi’s debut, Homegoing, a couple years ago I just knew that she would become an autobuy author for me. I have been impatiently waiting for her sophomore novel, and let me tell you that Transcendent Kingdom was well worth the wait. It is impossible to compare the two books, as they are so completely different. The range that Gyasi has is incredible!
The way that Transcendent Kingdom is written makes it feel as though you are reading a memoir rather than a work of fiction. There is something about it that feels deeply personally and allows to you connect with Gifty on a different level.
This book tackles some interesting themes, but what stood out to be was the conflict between religion and science and how those two entities can merge together. This is something that Gifty is trying to balance in her own life, and it was compelling to watch these two sides pull her in different directions.
There is also a lot of discussion around mental health and addiction. I thought Yaa Gyasi did an incredible job of capturing that feeling of wanting to so desperately help someone but not have the ability to do so. Gifty started her research in response to her brother’s addiction, and she has some complicated feelings about that. As you can see, there is a lot to unpack within the pages of Transcendent Kingdom, and it is a book I will be thinking about for a long time.
I own both a physical copy and the audiobook (thanks to Libro fm!) and Bahni Turpin is the narrator. Turpin is hands down my favourite narrator, so I went back and forth between reading psychically and listening. It was a great way to take in this story.
- Characters: 9
- Atmosphere/Setting: 8
- Writing Style: 10
- Plot: 8
- Intrigue: 9
- Logic/Relationships: 9
- Enjoyment: 9
Overall CAWPILE score: 62/7=8.9