This is going to be kind of a difficult post to write, because Yaa Gyasi’s Transcendent Kingdom is not like most of what I read, and it’s messing with my ability to talk about it in a coherent sense. Y’all know me by now; I prefer plot-driven books, and my enjoyment of a book is more often focused on what happens in the book rather than concerns about theme and character and highfalutin literary stuff. But this book is enormously character-driven. You know everything that’s going to “happen” in the book within the first few pages (and, to complicate things, I don’t really want to reveal any of it) and there are no big twists or plot reveals; it’s all about listening to Gifty, the main character, tell you about her life.
But, God, it’s beautiful, and I read it cover-to-cover between around 6:00 yesterday evening and 11:00 this morning, and I woke up this morning knowing that I wasn’t doing anything until I’d finished it. Transcendent Kingdom is about grief, and loss, and neuroscience, and addiction, and family, and it’s about being a Ghanaian immigrant in America when America isn’t always a good place to be. It’s also about Christianity and atheism in a way that got straight past all of my filters; in a weird way this book made me wish I were more religious, and that is not a thing that happens, like, ever.
And I really think that’s all I’m telling you, other than to also point out that this is another one of those “this book is amazing as a physical artifact” types of books as well; definitely get it in hardback. I’ve read 24 books so far in 2021 and I’ve read several that I really enjoyed but this is the first one that has ended with me feeling absolutely certain it will be on my end-of-year list. Grab it up, and while you’re at it pick up Gyasi’s Homegoing from a couple of years ago as well.