Book Review: Transcendent Kingdom

This past September, when this book was released, it blew up all over social media and being the book nerd that I am- I had to hop onto the trend to see what the fuss was about. If you haven’t heard of Yaa Gyasi before, you are simply missing out. I realize I forgot to do a book review on her 1st book, Homecoming- it blew me away. So, you can imagine how excited I was to join the bandwagon for this book and boy did it not disappoint. This week on the blog, we share our review of Yaa Gyasi’s sophomore book, Transcendent Kingdom. Check it out and let us know what you think.


This book is written from Gifty ? ‘S perspective, she is a 30 (?) something year old post doctorate researcher- it flips between Gifty’s present, her lab work and trying to manage her severely depressed Ghanaian mother. Both of whom are dealing with the wounds of a trauma they have never attempted to heal from but brings out different aspects of negative coping mechanisms in the both of them. Nana ?, Gifty’s highly athletically gifted brother, dies of an overdose at the age of 17- which spins their mother into depression and forcing Gifty to grow up far faster than she should. Hell bent on being a success so her mother can actually see her for once after a lifetime of living in her brothers shadows and desperate to have some sort of connection withheld mother she tries to rationalize religion and her own science based line of work.

Break it Down:

Beautifully written melancholic book. It’s a story of trauma and the coping mechanisms we choose, whether voluntarily or involuntarily in order to try to get over or even manage.

Melancholic and intriguing all at the same time.
I love the conversation about mental health within the Black community, but also from an African context, the fact that culturally this isn’t a topic that is talked about openly, it is shunned and ignored.

Could it get a brother to set down a needle? Could it get a mother out of bed?

I find it so sad and yet so very truthful how a massive family secret can not only devastate a life, but also the ripple effects of the lives linked to that one incident. Nana’s inability to express how he was feeling and his constant need to be good at sports and then his introduction to drugs which essentially numbed the pain he was feeling. Instead of feeling like he needed to release the pain, he repressed it with sports and then drugs, which ultimately took his young, talented life. That loss then begins Gifty’s drive to be the best so that her mother can actually see her for once, but her mother is so consumed by her own grief, it spirals her into a depression she doesn’t admit exists or is even interested in seeking at form of help for it. So, in one fail swoop Gifty becomes an orphan and an only child.



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