Transcendent Kingdom
by Gyasi, Yaa






"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 sixth-year candidate in neuroscience at Stanford school of medicine studying the neural circuits of reward seeking behavior in mice"-





YAA GYASI was born in Ghana and raised in Huntsville, Alabama. She holds a BA in English from Stanford University and an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where she held a Dean's Graduate Research Fellowship. She lives in Brooklyn.





Following her spectacularly lauded, bestselling historical and ancestral debut, Homegoing (2016), Gyasi's turns to the contemporary, tracing the dissolution of a Ghanaian immigrant family. By the time Gifty leaves Alabama for Harvard, she's resolved to "build a new Gifty from scratch" by shedding the debilitating experiences of her young life: her father's abandonment and return to Ghana, her older brother Nana's heroin overdose, her mother's suicidal depression, her faltering faith. In Cambridge, she could be "confident, poised, smart . . . strong and unafraid." Four years later, she's untethered again, arriving at Stanford to work toward a neuroscience PhD. For all her groundbreaking research, she's really just trying to comprehend what happened to beloved Nana via cocaine-and-then-Ensure-addicted lab mice which became willing to risk physical damage for gratification. Six years into the program, Gifty's mother arrives, once more cripplingly withdrawn. Her silent presence will require some semblance of confrontation and reconciliation with their tragic past. Despite compounding challenges and tragedies, Gyasi never allows Gifty to devolve into paralyzing self-absorption and malaise. With deft agility and undeniable artistry, Gyasi's latest is an eloquent examination of resilient survival. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.





A scientist weighs the big questions that her private trauma bequeaths her. After Homegoing (2016) swept through seven generations, Gyasi's wise second novel pivots toward intimacy. It unspools entirely in the voice of watchful, reticent, brilliant Gifty, 28, nearly finished with her doctorate in neuroscience at Stanford's School of Medicine. Her formidable mother, a home health care aide, has plummeted into a second severe depression, and their family pastor has dispatched the limp woman toward Gifty via airplane from Huntsville, Alabama, "folding her up the way you would a jumpsuit." The first episode, when Gifty was 11, arrived after an opiate overdose stole the life of 16-year-old Nana, the firstborn son and more cherished child. Both times the Ghanaian matriarch has crawled mutely into bed, but this time not before asking adult Gifty if she still prays. "No," says Gifty, who turns her ontological questions on lab mice. She gets them addicted to Ensure and then opens their brains surgically, probing the neural pathways of recklessness, looking fo r clues to creating restraint. Gifty hopes to apply her results to "the species Homo Sapiens, the most complex animal, the only animal who believed he had transcended his Kingdom, as one of my high school biology teachers used to say." This work, Gifty insists, has zero to do with her brother's death. In 54 microchapters and precise prose, Gyasi creates an ache of recognition, especially for readers knowledgeable about the wreckage of addiction. Still, she leavens this nonlinear novel with sly humor, much more than in Homegoing, as the daughter of a traditional woman weighs what it means to walk in the world not quite a nonbeliever. The author is astute about childhood grandiosity and a pious girl's deep desire to be good; she conveys in brief strokes the notched, nodding hook of heroin's oblivion. In its wake, adult Gifty sits with the limits of both bench science and evangelical Christianity. Nowhere does Gyasi take a cheap shot. Instead, she writes a final chapter that gi v es readers a taste of hard-won deliverance. In a quietly poignant story, a lonely woman finds a way to be less alone. Copyright Kirkus 2020 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.





1
 
Whenever I think of my mother, I picture a queen-sized bed with her lying in it, a practiced stillness filling the room. For months on end, she colonized that bed like a virus, the first time, when I was child and then again when I was a graduate student. The first time, I was sent to Ghana to wait her out. While there, I was walking through Kejetia market with my aunt when she grabbed my arm and pointed.  “Look a crazy person,” she said in Twi.  “Do you see?  A crazy person.”
 
I was mortified.  My aunt was speaking so loudly, and the man, tall with dust caked into his dreadlocks, was within earshot.  “I see. I see,” I answered in a low hiss.  The man continued past us, mumbling to himself as he waved his hands about in gestures that only he could understand. My aunt nodded, satisfied, and we kept walking past the hordes of people gathered in that agoraphobia-inducing market until we reached the stall where we would spend the rest of the morning attempting to sell knock-off handbags.  In my three months there, we sold only four bags.
 
Even now, I don’t completely understand why my aunt singled the man out to me.  Maybe she thought there were no crazy people in America, that I had never seen one before. Or maybe she was thinking about my mother, about the real reason I was stuck in Ghana that summer, sweating in a stall with an aunt I hardly knew while my mother healed at home in Alabama.  I was eleven, and I could see that my mother wasn’t sick, not in the ways that I was used to. I didn’t understand what my mother needed healing from.  I didn’t understand, but I did.  And my embarrassment at my aunt’s loud gesture had as much to do with my understanding as it did with the man who had passed us by.  My aunt was saying, “That. That is what crazy looks like.” But instead what I heard was my mother’s name.  What I saw was my mother’s face, still as lake water, the pastor’s hand resting gently on her forehead, his prayer a light hum that made the room buzz.  I’m not sure I know what crazy looks like, but even today when I hear the word I picture a split screen, the dreadlocked man in Kejetia on one side, my mother lying in bed on the other.  I think about how no one at all reacted to that man in the market, not in fear or disgust, nothing, save my aunt who wanted me to look.  He was, it seemed to me, at perfect peace, even as he gesticulated wildly, even as he mumbled. 
 
But my mother, in her bed, infinitely still, was wild inside.






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