Gyasi’s meticulous, psychologically complex second novel (after Homegoing) examines the consequences of a Ghanian family’s immigration to Huntsville, Ala. Gifty, the only member of the family born in the United States, is six years into a doctorate in neuroscience at Stanford, where she is attempting to see if she can alter the neural pathways leading to addiction and depression. Her project is motivated by the fate of her beloved older brother who died from a heroin overdose when she was in high school, and by the condition of her depressed mother, who is staying at Gifty’s apartment. Though she now determinedly puts her faith in science, Gifty still feels the pull of her evangelical upbringing, and she struggles to reconcile the two opposing belief systems while juggling her dissertation and care for her mother, plus a growing attraction to her awkward lab mate. The narrative moves smoothly between the present and Gifty’s childhood, with episodes such as a summer spent in Ghana with her aunt during a previous phase of her mother’s depression rising in the background while Gifty works her way up in her field. Gyasi’s constraint renders the emotional impact of the novel all the more powerful: her descriptions of the casual racism endured by the family, particularly at the hands of their nearly all-white church in Alabama, is more chilling for being so matter-of-fact. At once a vivid evocation of the immigrant experience and a sharp delineation of an individual’s inner struggle, the novel brilliantly succeeds on both counts. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
"Gyasi sometimes reminds me of other writers who’ve addressed the immigrant experience in America—Jhumpa Lahiri and Yiyun Li in particular.... As in the work of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie or the Ghanaian-American short-story writer Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, the African immigrants in this novel exist at a certain remove from American racism, victims but also outsiders, marveling at the peculiar blindnesses of the locals...brilliant... Transcendent Kingdom trades the blazing brilliance of Homegoing for another type of glory, more granular and difficult to name."
—Nell Freudenberger, The New York Times Book Review
“The novel is full of brilliantly revealing moments, sometimes funny, often poignant.... [Gifty is] provokingly vital.”
—James Wood, The New Yorker
"Yaa Gyasi’s profoundly moving second novel takes place in the vast, fragile landscape where the mysteries of God and the certainties of science collide. Through deliberate and precise prose, the book becomes an expansive meditation on grief, religion, and family."
—The Boston Globe
"Laser-like... A powerful, wholly unsentimental novel about family love, loss, belonging and belief that is more focused but just as daring as its predecessor, and to my mind even more successful… [Transcendent Kingdom] is burningly dedicated to the question of meaning… The pressure created gives her novel a hard, beautiful, diamantine luster.”
—Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
"A book of blazing brilliance ... of profound scientific and spiritual reflection that recalls the works of Richard Powers and Marilynne Robinson... A double helix of wisdom and rage twists through the quiet lines...Thank God, we have this remarkable novel."
—Ron Charles, The Washington Post
"A luminous, heartbreaking and redemptive American story, Transcendent Kingdom is the mark of a brilliant writer who is just getting started."
"If You Read One Book This Year, Make It Yaa Gyasís Transcendent Kingdom."
"A stealthily devastating novel of family, faith and identity that’s as philosophical as it is personal... It’s bravura storytelling by Gyasi, so different in scope, tone and style from her 2016 debut Homegoing. That, too, was brilliant literature, as expansive as Transcendent Kingdom is interior...The range Gyasi displays in just two books is staggering."
"“Elegant... burrows into the philosophical, exploring with complexity what it might mean for us to live without firm answers to the mysteries that wound us... The measured restraint of Gyasi’s prose makes the story’s challenging questions all the more potent."
—The San Francisco Chronicle
"Poised to be the literary event of the fall."
"I would say that Transcendent Kingdom is a novel for our time (and it is) but it is so much more than that. It is a novel for all times. The splendor and heart and insight and brilliance contained in the pages holds up a light the rest of us can follow."
"Absolutely transcendent. A gorgeously woven narrative about a woman trying to survive the grief of a brother lost to addiction and a mother trapped in depression while pursuing her ambitions. Not a word or idea out of place. Completely different from Homegoing. THE RANGE. I am quite angry this is so good."
"[Transcendent Kingdom] will stay with you long after you’ve finished it."
"Meticulous, psychologically complex...At once a vivid evocation of the immigrant experience and a sharp delineation of an individual’s inner struggle, the novel brilliantly succeeds on both counts."
—Publishers Weekly [starred review]
"Gyasi’s wise second novel pivots toward intimacy... In 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... 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...final chapter that gives readers a taste of hard-won deliverance."
—Kirkus Reviews [starred review]
"Unforgettable... Transcendent Kingdom has an expansive scope that ranges into fresh, relevant territories—much like the title, which suggests a better world beyond the life we inhabit."
—BookPage [starred review]
"With deft agility andundeniable artistry, Gyasi’s latest is an eloquent examination of resilient survival."
Gifty was still in elementary school when the solid pillars that bolstered her life tumbled down. Her dad returned to Ghana, her beloved brother Nana overdosed on OxyContin, her mother disappeared in a morass of despair, and God stopped listening. Mentored by a biology teacher, Gifty finds solace in her studies, escaping Alabama for a science lab and a PhD program at Stanford, a place where if you asked questions you'd get answers. She avoids human entanglements, preferring time spent with her mice and the research that might shed light on the science of addiction. An intuitive and introspective companion, Gifty toggles back and forth in time, unspooling her people's immigrant journey from a village in Ghana to Huntsville, AL, where racism manifested in a thousand tiny cuts. Confused, ashamed, and resentful of her family, Gifty surrounds herself with a protective wall of secrecy, pushing away anyone who tries to penetrate her carapace, until her mother's arrival in California forces a breakthrough. VERDICT Though it's a departure from her gorgeous historical debut, Homegoing, winner of the NBCC's John Leonard Prize, Gyasi's contemporary novel of a woman's struggle for connection in a place where science and faith are at odds is a piercingly beautiful tale of love and forgiveness. [See Prepub Alert, 2/14/20.]—Sally Bissell, formerly with Lee Cty. Lib. Syst., Fort Myers, FL