I don’t know if I have enough words to describe the way I love Yaa Gyasi’s writing. I have given copies of her first book, Homegoing, to every reader that I know. Her second book, Transcendent Kingdom, is at first glance very different but deals with many similar themes.
Transcendent Kingdom is told by Gifty, a neuroscientist researching addictive behavior in mice. She’s brilliant, a dedicated scientist at a world class institution, but also a loner who wants human connection but pushes it away at every turn. Through current day narration, memories, and excerpts of childhood diary entries we see how Gifty’s current isolated life came to pass. Her relationships with her family, her peers and her faith (or lack of) are all laid bare, and through her telling we see how the actions and decisions of those who precede us affect our own lives. This was the main theme of Homegoing– generation after generation, our lives influence what comes next- and is told on a smaller level here with Gifty’s small family. The story itself is a small look at one person, but I think it has a lot to say about big themes- faith, the challenges of belief when adversity hits, the struggles of acclimating to an unwelcoming society, the effect of parental neglect (both intentional and unintentional) on a child, and the devastation of addiction. I found this book difficult emotionally and occasionally had to take a break from it. Nonetheless it is outstanding.