Transcendent Kingdom [Book Review]

September 18, 2020

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, Drug Addiction, Ghana-American, Immigrant

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.


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:

Writing: Even though Transcendent Kingdom 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, some sections I feel 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 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)

Recommended: Transcendent Kingdom 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

Transcendent Kingdom Information

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 Transcendent Kingdom on your TBR or have you read it?

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