Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

Brenda’s Review

“I would always have something to prove, Nothing but blazing brilliance would be enough to prove it.”

I can’t think of better words to describe Transcendent Kingdom, but “blazing brilliance.” It is a remarkable story that is dazzling written from the first page to the very last page. It’s the kind of story that brings out the thoughts and feelings I love most about reading, and I have a lot of thoughts and feeling about stories.

Transcendent Kingdom is a raw, insightful, intimate look into the thoughts of neuroscientist grad student Gifty while she tries to make sense of addiction and depression that has gutted her family. It is a quiet, eloquent written story that explores a complex web of themes of family, grief, race, belonging, addiction, depression through Gifty’s shame, weaving them together to a quiet redemption.

The themes are deeply layered with faith and science as Gifty struggles with faith, no longer giving her comfort and the answers she seeks. She turns to science to understand and make sense of her brother’s addiction to opioids. She uses her thesis experiment to study reward-seeking behavior in mice and discover the scientific basis for the suffering she sees all around her.

“I used to see the world through a God lens, and when that lens clouded, I turned to science,” she writes. “Both became, for me, valuable ways of seeing, but ultimately, both have failed to fully satisfy in their aim: to make clear, to make meaning.”

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

The story’s strength is the dynamics between Gifty and her thoughts towards her mother and their dynamics. The tension between their dynamics drives the story forward. Gifty is a challenging character to relate to as she is distant, guarded, and restrained as she observes and makes sense of the world around her. Her structured thoughts and feelings are brilliantly insightful and thought-provoking but can come across as more matter-of-fact rather than emotional. However, under her guarded wall and the quiet layers to the story, she is a character screaming to be heard and one that is rewarding to listen to!!

“The truth is we don’t know what we don’t know. We don’t even know the questions we need to ask in order to find out, but when we learn one tiny little thing, a dim light comes on in a dark hallway, and suddenly a new question appears.”

I received a copy through the publisher on NetGalley. I also bought a print copy to love, smell hug and carry around in one beautiful handmade book sleeve.

The book sleeves are made by my Mom and the bookmark by Norma. Check out their Etsy shop for more book sleeves and bookmarks. Click here for their Etsy shop Use SISTERS20 at the checkout for 20% off.

6 thoughts on “Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi”

    1. That’s good to know Mary! I would of liked to have listened to some of it too!! Hearing Gifty’s thoughts would of added to the story I am sure!!

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