Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi

The blurb:

Kweku Sai is dead. A renowned surgeon and failed husband, he succumbs suddenly at dawn outside his home in suburban Accra. The news of Kweku’s death sends a ripple around the world, bringing together the family he abandoned years before. Ghana Must Go is their story. Electric, exhilarating, beautifully crafted, Ghana Must Go is a testament to the transformative power of unconditional love, from a debut novelist of extraordinary talent.  

Moving with great elegance through time and place, Ghana Must Go charts the Sais’ circuitous journey to one another. In the wake of Kweku’s death, his children gather in Ghana at their enigmatic mother’s new home. The eldest son and his wife; the mysterious, beautiful twins; the baby sister, now a young woman: each carries secrets of his own. What is revealed in their coming together is the story of how they came apart: the hearts broken, the lies told, the crimes committed in the name of love. Splintered, alone, each navigates his pain, believing that what has been lost can never be recovered—until, in Ghana, a new way forward, a new family, begins to emerge.

Ghana Must Go is at once a portrait of a modern family, and an exploration of the importance of where we come from to who we are. In a sweeping narrative that takes us from Accra to Lagos to London to New York, Ghana Must Go teaches that the truths we speak can heal the wounds we hide.

Ghana Must Go is an unusual read.  Taiye Selasi tells the complicated story of a family from the perspective of each of the members.  Beginning with the father, Kweku Sai, a brilliant surgeon who left Ghana to train in Johns Hopkins and Harvard.  We learn about Kweku's life as an impoverished student in Africa, as a displaced, brilliant, and hardworking student and doctor, as a devoted husband and adoring father, and as a gifted doctor in one of the top hospitals in the world.  When Kweku's   brilliant career is somehow implodes through no fault of his own, he is devastated devastated by the change and the damage impacts his family deeply.  

As Taiye Selasi introduces Fola, the wife and mother,  and the children  (Olu, the eldest and surgeon, the gifted and beautiful twins Taiwo and Kehinde, and Sadie, the baby of the family) we discover more about the family, about each person's struggle for acceptance and love, and about the worlds  that they inhabit in Brookline, in New York, in New Haven, and in Africa.

There is Fola, a legendary beauty whose mother died in childbirth and whose father was tragically murdered during a violent attack when she was still a young girl.  Fola escapes to Ghana and then to the West to study.  When she meets Kweku in the US, she has locked her story deep inside.  Her eldest child, Olu, has followed in his father's footsteps and has established himself as a brilliant surgeon.  Olu has not remained unscathed by the troubles in his life despite the fact that he appears to lead a "charmed life" and learning more about Olu makes him complicated and deeply sympathetic.  Olu's twin siblings have inherited the strikingly gorgeous looks of his mother's family.  For as long as anyone can remember, the twins have drawn people to them with their unusual looks and their independence - they seem to live in a world of their own.  Kehinde doesn't have the tension, the drive, that characterizes Olu's life but Kehinde has become a world renowned artist.   Taiwo is brilliant and gorgeous, but her gifts and successes haven't  brought her the contentment that we'd expect but Taiwo carries a dark secret that explains her isolation.   Sadie, the cherished youngest child, has had it much easier than her siblings but still longs for a life like those of their wealthy Brookline neighbors and her WASP best friend - it takes a life changing trip to bring the family back together.

Ghana Must Go is an amazing read.   It's a story about Africa,   about immigration, about building a life  and the sacrifices and joys that this entails.

ISBN-10: 1594204497 - Hardcover $25.95
Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The (March 5, 2013), 336 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher and the Amazon Vine Reviewers program.

About the Author:
TAIYE SELASI was born in London and raised in Massachusetts. She holds a B.A. in American studies from Yale and an M.Phil. in international relations from Oxford. “The Sex Lives of African Girls” (Granta, 2011), Selasi’s fiction debut, will appear in Best American Short Stories 2012. She lives in Rome.

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