book review

Review: Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Transcendent Kingdom

Publisher: Viking Books UK

Pub date: 4 March 2021

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Late to the party, I only read Homegoing this January and it was my favourite book of that month – and I said at the time that I could well see it being my favourite book of the year. Though I had high hopes for Yaa Gyasi’s second novel, Transcendent Kingdom, I did not necessarily expect to love it as much as I did.

Transcendent Kingdom follows Gifty as she struggles with the aftermath of the death of her brother and her mother’s depression. Even her PhD studies are centred around her family’s tragedies: her brother died from an overdose, and Gifty is studying reward-seeking behaviour in mice and how this connects to addiction and depression.

This novel is an intimate and intense examination of one family. It is beautifully written – sharp, vivid, concise. I don’t know how pack so many poignant themes and give characters such life in such a way. I admire Gyasi’s writing so much because her characters are so nuanced and so real. Her writing feels almost stripped back to me – concise is probably the wrong word to use, but it’s not a particularly long book, the chapters are quite short and the author jumps between the present and the past. In this way, she gives us snippets of a life that feels incredibly real. I saw someone else say that she is an author who says as much in her words as she does in the spaces that she leaves, and this feels very true to me.

Ultimately, this novel is about grief and a search for meaning, and within it, it explores poverty, depression, racism and the experience of immigrants in America. I can’t really explain how or why this novel touched me so deeply, but it left me wanting to read more. I 100% recommend this book to you – I adored it, and I hope you do too!

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