Saturday, April 20, 2013

Pardon Me While I Gush

Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi
(Penguin, 2013)
Format: library book

From Goodreads: "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 Gocharts 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."

You guys. I literally - like, actually, physically, inexplicably - had to stop myself from taking a bite of this book. My desire to devour it, to internalize it and at the same time, to curl up in it and be surrounded by it, was that strong. 

So, Kweku, the father of four, brilliant surgeon, loving husband, and then - none of those things, abandoning the roles without actually leaving them behind in his heart. Sixteen years after he left Boston and his family behind, he dies suddenly, leaving his ex-wife and children with too many things unsaid. They have continents of mis- and non-communication within them, for a group that started out so solidly as a nuclear family - but Kweku's leaving burned deep scars into them all.

But, whatever. A plot device - this long-delayed bringing back together of once-close family members, complete with sad revelations and falling into old patterns and tears (and tears) and joinings. It's good stuff, undoubtedly, and Selasi balances each of the five survivors with delicacy, weaving their stories just tightly enough to hold while still seeing their individual, lovely shades.

The magic is in the writing. Follow the ways color-attuned and monochromatic sensibilities speak about each character. Delve into the truths about identity and self-perception and heritage. Reel with the truths about your own reactions to universal v. individual tragedies (Fola, the ex-wife, has a brief but powerful moment of recall about the death of her father, and her anger that it is so easy - 'another African dying in ethnic conflict' - to dismiss as rote where another death would have brought her true sympathy and kept the individuality of her father intact.) Admire the use of dialogue and the silences within dialogue. See the emotions transparent in the empathic guts of the Sai family. Discover the terrifying beauty of Selasi's writing, and after you've read it and re-read it, come back and tell me how damn right I am.

(But if it's a library book, don't actually chew on the novel. It's bad form.)

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