Do you ever get nervous picking up the second book from an author whose debut you adored? That was me starting this month’s selection Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi. Her debut Homegoing, which published in 2016 and is a sweeping exploration about what happens to the descendants of two African sisters separated at birth, astounded me so much with its ambition and power that I couldn’t imagine a writer following up such an act. But I needn’t have worried for, although entirely different and narrower in focus, Transcendent Kingdom is as equally impressive and potent.
Narrated by Gifty, a sixth-year PhD candidate studying neuroscience, Transcendent Kingdom is a profoundly affecting portrait of her family: Ghanian immigrants in Alabama who have been devastated by the hard realities of contemporary America. This is a novel about love, loss and inheritance. It’s about the tension between science and faith, about surviving the hypervisibility of being Black in small-town America, about the intersection between race and poverty, and the ways we seek to rationalise emotionally incomprehensible things. There is so much crammed into this novel and yet it is entirely accessible and, dare I mention that overused term, unputdownable. It also happens to be the kind of book that accumulates nuance and impact and relevance the more you let it percolate; I thought about it for weeks after finishing it!
I won’t say enjoy the read because it is heavy (if this is your first month with us, know that not all selections are this sombre), but I do hope that you get as much from it as I did. It’s a remarkable read with so much heart and we will no doubt be seeing it on literary award lists in months to come.
Laura & The WellRead Team
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