Transcendent Kingdom [Book Review]

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi reads like a compelling, poignant, and thought-provoking memoir.

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi (cover) Image: gold text over a light pink (top) and black (bottom) background

Genre/Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Literary Fiction, Faith and Science, Family Drama, Drug Addiction, Ghana-American, Immigrant

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary of Transcendent Kingdom:

While Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi is the multi-generational big picture of a family over three hundred years, Transcendent Kingdom is a microscopic look at one Ghanaian family in Alabama. Their son, Nana, was a gifted high school athlete who died from a heroin overdose as a result of being addicted to pain meds after an accident. Dad returns to Ghana and Mom becomes severely depressed. The beginning of the story finds the daughter, Gifty, at Standford Medical School studying depression and addiction as she desperately hopes to find answers that will help others in similar situations. At the same time Gifty studies the hard sciences, she also questions her faith and the religious experiences of her childhood. This is a story of immigration, faith, science, questions, and family devotion.

My Thoughts About Transcendent Kingdom:

Writing: Even though this story is clearly categorized as fiction, it definitely reads like a memoir. Throughout this compelling and poignant story, I had to remind myself that it is not the official memoir of Yaa Gyasi. However, I feel that some sections must have been written from personal experience. The story is told using flashbacks from Gifty’s perspective as a medical student. Her powerful and gently-written story details grief, regret, the immigration experience, and questions of faith. Transcendent Kingdom is beautifully written, transparent, heartfelt, and honest, and, in my opinion, it falls into the literary fiction genre.

Five equally thoughtful themes:

  • Racism/Prejudice
  • Addiction: I feel critical of a doctor who would give a teenage boy pain-killer meds with no counseling for parents regarding possible addiction.
  • Faith/Spiritual Quest: I love the respect with which the author addresses questions of faith and science. I also love how she describes “the knock she feels on her heart” from God.
  • Grief/Depression/Regret/Mental Health
  • One Tough Mother (until she wasn’t)


This thought-provoking book is definitely recommended for fans of Homegoing, for readers who desire to diversify their reading experience, for those who appreciate relevant and thoughtful themes, and for book clubs who crave rich discussion. This story will affect you and change you.

Book Club: One topic I would like to address in book club is the degree to which children shoulder the weight of family drama.

Content Considerations: death of a child due to addiction, depression, bullying

My Rating:  5 Stars


Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi (cover) Image: gold text on light pink (top half) and black (bottom half) background

More Information Here

Meet the Author, Yaa Gyasi

Author Yaa GyasiYaa Gyasi was born in Ghana and raised in Huntsville, Alabama. Her debut novel, Homegoing, was awarded 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.


Is this compelling book on your TBR or have you read it?

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Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

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  1. Sounds intense, but worthwhile. Never have read a book about a family from Ghana– so that’s a recommendation right there. And, of course, I so trust your recommendations– 5 stars! thanks thanks Carol.

  2. I am not familiar with Transcendent Kingdom but it sounds like one I should watch for. I will add this one, but it might be awhile to get to it.

      • They are each stand alone. Homegoing is quite a rigorous structure I think because the Story follows 2 sisters and generations of their family for 300+ years….each chapter is a vignette of one person in the next generation (alternating sisters). I needed to keep notes! But it’s a fascinating multigenerational read and astounding that she wrote it when she was 26! Transcendent Kingdom focuses on one family and reads more like a memoir. Depends on what you are in the mood for!

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