A TODAY SHOW #ReadWithJenna BOOK CLUB PICK!
INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER
Finalist for the WOMEN'S PRIZE
Yaa Gyasi's stunning follow-up to her acclaimed national best seller Homegoing is a powerful, raw, intimate, deeply layered novel about a Ghanaian family in Alabama.
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.
"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 Gyasi's 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."
About the Author
Yaa Gyasi was born in Ghana and raised in Huntsville, Alabama. Her debut novel, Homegoing, won her the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Award for best first book, the PEN/Hemingway Award for a first book of fiction, the National Book Foundation’s “5 under 35” honors for 2016, and the American Book Award. She lives in Brooklyn.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
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.