Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi has so many positive reviews and I had such hope that I would fall in love with the story. That wasn’t the case for me. I never fell in love but I did fall in like. That was good enough for me.
This review will stay pretty, pretty. I promise.
First a quick word from the author. . .
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.
Book Review Starts Here. . .
Yaa Gyasi is a talented writer, her ability to craft a novel is evident throughout the entire read. Transcendent Kingdom tells the story of a woman trying to find her place in the world. Grifty is a child of a Ghanaian immigrant who has instilled an importance to follow god in all aspects of life. To feel as though god is always watching so, she must always be on her best behavior. That within itself is a notion that holds Grify back, even in adulthood.
I’ll be honest, I’m not a big fan of god being a focal point within a story. I don’t mind it a wee bit but it was on almost every single page. After awhile, I felt like I was being preached to. Which is why it took me almost 2 weeks to get though the book. That’s a really long time for a girl who can read more than one book a day.
Grifty is also a scientist. She is trying to find the balance of where god fits into science since there is no way to run experiments to confirm or deny his existence. We get a fair amount of information how she is running experiments on mice to see if she can understand the human mind. There is a lot of detail about those wee mice and how she is conducting her research. I mean a whole lot. I wasn’t a big fan of that.
After the first 150+ pages of the book, I started skimming over all of the religious stuff because it was taking away from the story for me.
Just a few more things. . .
We also get into the complicated relationship Grifty has with her mother. We get a glimpse into what it is like growing up with a distant, almost cold mother. Although her brother is dead, we also get a chance to get to know him a touch through Grity’s eyes. I truly enjoyed this aspect of the book the most.
There are two things that made me give Transcendent Kingdom only 3 STARS. The first is the biggest one of all – I never connected with Grity. I was able to put her story down with no care as to when I was going to pick it up again. The second is just a personal pet-peeve – the ending was abrupt. There was no clear conclusion to the story I just read. A story that focused on her research, her relationship with god, and what how her mother healed. Yes, there is a epilogue but it doesn’t answer any questions, if anything, it made me have additional questions.
In the end, I wondered if it was even worth it. Which means I’m off to my current read.
Now to the important questions. . .
Do I recommend Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi? Only for those I know are into religion, science, and/or mother and daughter relationships. Other than that, no.
Will I read another book by Yaa Gyasi? Yes, she is a talented writer and I look forward to reading something a bit different from her in the future.
I told you I would keep it pretty. Don’t forget to check out more book reviews before you go.
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