Gifty is the daughter of two Ghanaian immigrants: her mother, a depressive woman who turns to American Evangelical Christianity for a respite from life, and her father, a man who abandons his family to return to his home in Ghana. Gifty has a brother: an athlete who struggles with addiction. Throughout the novel, Gifty bounces from memory to memory as she completes her doctoral work at Stanford in neurology and takes care of her mother. Each memory reveals layer after layer of who Gifty is and how she relates to her family and America.
As for how I relate to Gifty, I am not an immigrant, I am not a woman, and I am not a person of color. I cannot even begin to imagine what life is like for a person at the intersection of all of those things. But I am someone who grew up with Christianity as a core tenet of my entire personhood who then stepped away from it all. Gyasi has captured nearly perfectly many of the thoughts I have had about my relationship with Christianity and God. About how I relate to my mother now that we no longer share this commonality. About how belief shapes us and what it means for that belief to fall away. And Gyasi accomplished this with such ease in the story. There are not pontifications on rooftops or monologues in the rain. Gifty lives and remembers and carries on with her life.
At one point, Gifty goes to church with her significant other though she still does not believe, a line from that book has stuck with me since I first read it many, many weeks ago:
“He has never heard the knock, so he’ll never know what it means to miss that sound, to listen for it.”
This one line so achingly beautifully captures what it’s like for me to not believe any more but to also miss that belief and to wish for it to be back. That one line knocked the air out of my lungs.
This book is just so good. It’s so unbelievably good. I will reread it before the year is up.