Apr 16, 2013

Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi - A Review


March 2013, Fiction
Penguin Press HC, 336 pages (Hardcover)
 ISBN-13: 978-1594204494, Available on Amazon

I first came across Taiye Selasi during an interview she gave on public radio. In it she shared her experience meeting renowned author Toni Morrison who encouraged her to write after sharing her love for writing. This, in and of itself piqued my interest and I jotted down her name with the promise to look up her work.  Her first work, a short story “The Sex Lives of African Girls,” was published in the journal Granta in 2011 and featured in Best American Short Stories of 2012. Ghana Must Go is Selasi’s debut novel.

“Kweku dies barefoot on a Sunday before sunrise, his slippers by the doorway to the bedroom like dogs. At the moment he is on the threshold between the sunroom and garden and considering whether to go back to get them. He won’t.” 

These are the opening lines that introduce us to Kweku Sai, “a renowned surgeon and failed husband.” It is through his dying that we learn about him and the family he leaves behind.  Selasi goes back and forth in time unravelling the story of the Sai family. The story is told in three parts.

Kweku leaves Ghana, as a young man, on scholarship to attend medical school in the U.S. It is there, in New England, he meets and marries Folasadé (Fola), a young Nigerian émigré. Fola abandons her dream of attending Law school with the understanding that supporting Kweku’s dream is enough. Together they have four children – Olu, Taiwo, Kehinde and Sadé (Sadie).

Their story is typical of most immigrant families in the country, both parents working extremely hard to make ends’ meet and demanding academic excellence from their children so as to escape the traps of poverty with which they are all too familiar. Kweku loves his children but we see him struggle to understand and relate to them. His duty is that of a provider and not a friend or confidant. As the eldest three children are in their teens an unfortunate situation spirals out of control and Kweku leaves. Fola must regroup, pick up the fragments and forge ahead.

The second part of the book shows how Fola and her children, now adults, each react to Kweku’s death. Each carries painful personal secrets; these secrets like boils are painful, needing to be lanced and drained before healing can begin.

In the latter part of the book they all agree to travel to Ghana (where Fola is now living) for Kweku’s funeral. Though not easy their time there allows them to finally deal with the emotional fallout of events that have held them hold them back for so long.  It’s incredibly fraught with pain, confusion and mistrust. But ultimately they emerge better from it. Kweku’s second and final departure brings his family together again in every sense, after his earlier one had fractured the familial bonds and sent them all reeling.

Overall I enjoyed this book. Selasi’s writing is poetic and quite dense; though at times I think the writing gets in the way of telling the story. As the story unfolds through flashbacks, it’s sometimes hard to follow who the speakers are and what exactly is happening especially in the first part of the book, which I found to be slower and harder to read because there was a lot of detail to wade through.

With the added psychological dimensions given each character, it’s hard not to be affected by their pain, grief and anger. My heart grieved for this family. Ghana Must Go is definitely worth the read. I look forward to seeing how Taiye Selasi’s writing evolves over her career. There is strength in her writing that begs for more. 

This book review was first published on Mail and Guardian's Voices of Africa site. 

4 comments:

Yaaayy,I've been waiting on this review.I'm the anon from the other post about Selasi.I'm really waiting till the summer so I can enjoy the book w/o distractions.Thanks for the review Miss B.
:)
Kas

You're most welcome. I hope the review helps with your decision making. :-)

The beginning was so hard for me as well.I put it down a lot frustrated at not knowing who was saying what,whose mind are we in now?The latter part of the book is really good and I am glad that I am not the one who thought this.Great review!
x

Thank you! I am glad you enjoyed it too after crossing the hurdle that was the first half of the book. What do you plan to read next?

Post a Comment