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Transcendent Kingdom (2020)

by Yaa Gyasi

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1,946928,136 (4.04)144
"A novel about faith, science, religion, and family that tells the deeply moving portrait of a family of Ghanaian immigrants ravaged by depression and addiction and grief, narrated by a fifth year candidate in neuroscience at Stanford school of medicine studying the neural circuits of reward seeking behavior in mice"--… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 91 (next | show all)
Actual rating: 4.5/5

I loved Homegoing, so when I heard Yaa Gyasi was due to release a new book I jumped at the chance to read it. And I was not disappointed. Transcendent Kingdom is in many ways different from Homegoing, although some of the same themes of family, belonging and identity are echoed here as well, but it is nevertheless a captivating and emotional read that confirms Yaa Gyasi as a great author - and a must-read one for me.

Transcendent Kingdom is narrated by Gifty in a non-linear way, moving seamlessly between childhood memories, her present life and her reflections on life and its meaning, science, religion and lots more. I'm not usually a fan of non-linear narration so I was a bit worried about this going in, but to my surprise I actually got into the style quite quickly and I felt it worked perfectly as a reflection of Gifty's emotional and mental state.

Gifty was a really compelling character. Her struggle to make sense of life and loss, looking at religion and then science to provide answers to explain her deep suffering and grief, and to find ways to avoid it happening to others, made for a highly emotional and multilayered read. Some of the detail of both Gifty's experiments and her religious experience felt like it was a bit too much for me, and took me away from the main reflections, but that's just personal preference.

This is an emotionally charged book, dealing with themes such as addiction, loss and grief, migration, discrimination, and mental health. Despite that (or maybe because it doesn't shy away from difficult topics), it is an engrossing read. The easy flow of Yaa Gyasi's beautiful style drew me right into Gifty's mind, asking with her, how do you keep going when your whole world comes crashing down around you?

CW: drug addiction, death, grief, mental ill health, racism

I received an e-arc of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book in any way. ( )
  bookforthought | Nov 7, 2023 |
Yaa Gyasi weaves the past and the present together better than any author I have ever read. Delicious. ( )
  ejerig | Oct 25, 2023 |
“I would always have something to prove and that nothing but blazing brilliance would be enough to prove it.”

Blazing brilliance from Yaa Gyasi’s sophomore novel. Readers should be aware this is a heavy read, delving deeply into issues related to immigration, addiction, religion, racism, and depression. I closed this book feeling raw and drained. ( )
  KristinDiBum | Jul 21, 2023 |
Gifty, PhD candidate for neuroscience at Stanford tries to balance her life with science at work and religion from home Her brother Issac died from an overdose while her church-going mother tried to make sense of it. The book put me in a spiritual zone thinking about her family and why things happened the way they did. So many words I read were a reflection from my mother who always had a Bible beside her bed when she was alive. While science gives us facts, sometimes we just need to feel the love from a greater force. ( )
  Jacsun | Jul 16, 2023 |
* I would like to thank Netgalley and the publisher for the opportunity to review this book. *

Gifty is a Ghanaian-American research neuroscientist, specialising in reward-seeking behaviour. She comes from a broken home, abandoned by her father, and riven by mental illness and tragedy. From an early age, Gifty was required to support her mother in crisis and, while the local pastor said that God never gives anybody a burden that they can't bear, Gifty is shattered by events, and abandons her mother's religion. She can never quite do so completely without abandoning her mother in her own mind, which makes for a difficult quandary for a medical student.

Gifty and the other characters are so real, and the story is told with such verisimilitude, that this feels like reading a memoir. It's no surprise to read at the end that Gyasi based it on a friend's experiences. This is a very affecting book that continually leaves you engrossed and willing Gifty on to a happy outcome.

One thing I would add is that the book contains details of animal experiments that may upset some readers. ( )
  gjky | Apr 9, 2023 |
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Whenever I think of my mother, I picture a queen-sized bed with her lying in it, a practiced stillness filling the room.
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"A novel about faith, science, religion, and family that tells the deeply moving portrait of a family of Ghanaian immigrants ravaged by depression and addiction and grief, narrated by a fifth year candidate in neuroscience at Stanford school of medicine studying the neural circuits of reward seeking behavior in mice"--

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Gifty is a sixth-year PhD candidate in neuroscience at the Stanford University 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 an ankle 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.
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