Transcendent Kingdom:A Chevron Ross Book Review

By August 26, 2022No Comments

This novel is so breathtakingly good that I’m afraid my review cannot do justice to it. In less than three hundred pages, Yaa Gyasi escorts us on a desperate journey of personal trauma and disillusionment that only a person of strong character could survive.

Gifty is such a person. The child of a Ghanian couple who came to America in search of a better life, she is a sixth-year graduate student at Stanford. She performs lab experiments on mice in search of a cure for drug addiction. Her motivations are complex: the father who abandoned the family; her brother’s death from a bout with pain killers; her mother’s subsequent grief and withdrawal; and Gifty’s own reactions that have shaken her deep faith in God.

In frank and eloquent language, Gifty tells how her experiences have left her so introverted and single-minded that even those who love her cannot break through her defenses. At first, she seems a heartless scientist, describing in cruel detail her daily tinkering with the brains of mice to answer a fundamental question: “How does an animal restrain itself from pursuing a reward, especially when there is risk involved?” What we discover is that Gifty is seeking not only a scientific breakthrough, but a personal catharsis that will restore her faith and open a path to the rest of her life.

I could quote numerous passages from this book, but the parts would not do justice to the whole. Transcendent Kingdom is such a deeply personal novel that I cannot help wondering if the author is describing her own experiences. Her characters are that well-developed and engaging.

My only reason for limiting my rating to four stars is the regrettable offensive language throughout the book. If you can overlook it, as I managed to do, you will be glad that you joined Gifty on her journey.

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