By Leslie Lindsay
One woman’s reckoning with her family of origin, its dysfunctional aspects, a suicidal mother, a tragic event with a brother, science, and so much more.
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I had a feeling I would like TRANSCENDENT KINGDOM (Knopf, September 2020), I had no idea how much I would *LOVE* TRANSCENDENT KINGDOM. Yaa Gyasi is animmensely talented writer who tells a dark story with such luminous grace and compassion.
Gifty is a sixth-year neuroscience PhD candidate at the Stanford University School of Medicine. She’s studying the reward-seeking behavior of mice and the neural circuits in depression and anxiety and addiction, and with good reason. As often the case, many scientists study what they study because they have somehow been touched by the issues personally. In Gifty’s case, it’s her family members who have.
Gifty’s brother, Nana, was a talented athlete with much promise, but before all of that, the family immigrated from Ghana to Alabama(and then on to California). Here, we become immersed in the deep south, the unique aspects of sports in this part of the country, but also religion and racism. Still, Gifty is a thoughtful observer, brilliant in her own right, and is plagued with many of her own questions of spirituality and science, guilt, and more. As Gifty grows older, she is determined to discover the scientific basis for suffering–of which she is keenly aware.
“A luminous, heartbreaking and redemptive American story, Transcendent Kingdom is the mark of a brilliant writer who is just getting started.”
The structure of TRANSCENDENT KINGDOM meanders and spirals, there is no direct path, and this, I think adds to the story. We see, first-handGifty’s evolution and journeyin becoming the woman she is in the end, because all of these events–our childhood shape us.
Told in first person, TRANSCENDENT KINGDOM is an intimate portrayal of faith, science, dysfunction, family, love, immigration, loss, grief, guilt, and so much more. I had to remind myself that this is not a memoir, although I think it’s evident the author borrowed from her own experiences, as we writers tend to do.
What a gift this book is. Be patient with it–it’s a slower, more contemplative read, but provides so many thinking–and talking points–and will most certainly leave a residue.
Artistic image of book designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram for more like this @leslielindsay1 #alwayswithabook #bookreviews #bookstagram.
I was reminded, in part, of the work of Chloe Benjamin in THE IMMORTALISTS (particularly the science pieces) but also some connection to Therese A GOOD NEIGHBORHOOD Maya Shanbhag Lang’s WHAT WE CARRY meets Cara Wall’s THE DEARLY BELOVED. You may also enjoy ANNIE AND THE WOLVES and HIDDEN VALLEY ROAD.
You may enjoy this NPR article about TRANSCENDENT KINGDOM.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
ABOUT YOUR HOST:
Leslie Lindsay is the creator and host of the award-winning author interview series,“Always with a Book.” Since 2013, Leslie, named “one of the most influential book reviewers” by Jane Friedman, ranks in the top 1% of all GoodReads reviewers and has conducted over 700 warm, inquisitive conversations with authors as wide-ranging as Robert Kolker and Mary Kubica to Helen Phillips and Mary Beth Keane, making her website a go-to for book lovers world-wide. Her writing & photography have appeared in various print journals and online. She is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA: A Parents’ Guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speech. A former psychiatric R.N. at the Mayo Clinic, Leslie’s memoir, MODEL HOME: Motherhood, Madness, & Memory, is currently on submission with Catalyst Literary Management. Leslie resides in the Chicago area with her family.
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[Cover and author image retrieved from PRH/Knopf on 1.28.21. Artistic image of book designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram for more like this @leslielindsay1 #alwayswithabook #bookreviews #bookstagram]