Book Of The Month: Ghana Must Go By Taiye Selasi

Unlike last month's book, this was certainly not light-hearted. On the contrary, it was heavy with unexpected deaths, poverty, sexual abuse, complex family secrets, love, and of course, similes and metaphors that never seemed to end. In all, it was exceptionally written. It was beautiful.

P.S: You should follow me on Twitter; got my Tweeting mojo back!

The above tweet captioned exactly how I felt when I completed this book. Before I go on, a quick anecdote. When I started this book—despite a few hiccups I will describe in a bit—I  knew it was my book of July and wanted to blog it. I was not halfway done and today (Sunday) was looming. Still, I told myself about a week before today that I would finish this book before Sunday. Honestly, I did not see how. I'm not what you will call a fast reader not because I don't know how to read incredibly fast, I do. But really, it's not a competition. I don't go an entire day reading a book; I have a life, and while I have a predilection for books, I swear by my TV shows too. There are only 24 hours a day, at least seven of which I must sleep if you don't want monster Ife. So you see all the things competing for my attention.  But my mind was set on finishing the book. So during work breaks, and couples of minutes before bed, I read bits and pieces and continually got enthralled with the Sai's family secrets at the turn of every page. Fast forward to the beginning of a weekend trip with my sister yesterday: I was just halfway through when I told my sister about my goal to not just complete this masterminded-crafted literary piece, but blog about it. She scoffed. She was right to. We both fell very deeply asleep minutes later,  instead of me reading. About an hour or two before the trip ended I started. Well vacation-ing began around 12 and ended about 5 for the day. I finished the book by 8:45 PM. Set goals people, even when they look unachievable. Set them anyway.

Back to this piece that got me all giddy. I'll confess, it took a while to get a hang of this. While her writing was brilliant, to say the least, I found it tedious at first. The metaphors, the similes, the play on words, the avid descriptions...Sigh. They were at first, quite annoying.  However, amidst the verbose prose, I saw a plot thicken and thought if only she could get to the point. I found myself saying "get to the point already!!!!" a couple of times. For instance, when she described Kweku's Ama using three freaking pages. UGH. So extra.

Despite that only shortcoming of the book, it was just really great. It began with Kweku's death and would later evolve around all his four children and their mother reuniting for his funeral. Selasi (the author) herself is what you'll call intercontinental: Born in London (of a Nigerian mother and Ghanaian father), raised in Massachusetts, Yale and Oxford trained, and now living in Rome. Watch her TED talk: "Don't ask where I'm from, ask where I'm a local".

It was therefore no surprise to see her put her rich experiences and background to use when the book spanned across continents, and state lines: Brookline, Massachusetts; Kokrobitey, Ghana; Accra, Ghana; Lagos, Nigeria; New York, New York; London, England; New haven, Connecticut.

The book tells the story of Kweku Sai and Folasade Savage, or Fola as she's called throughout the book. They met in Pennsylvania after Fola had to leave Lagos for Ghana after her father's unfortunate demise in the North, just before the Nigerian civil war. She then left Ghana for Pennsylvania, where she met Kweku, a gifted surgeon. She gave up her dream of becoming a Georgetown trained lawyer for Kweku, saying "one dream is enough for us". Unfortunately, after the demise of a rich person (Kweku operated on) at his hospital, Kweku was deemed the fall guy and ultimately fired from work. He hid this salient fact from his family, while trying to figure things out. When he couldn't, he walked out very unceremoniously from his family, without as much as a warning.  The book dealt with the consequences and aftermath of that incredibly selfish decision; how it affected the lives of each child; and the fragments from the broken (both literally and figuratively) family. But instead of just divulging it directly, Selasi did this with a series of flash backs. First, we began with Kweku reminiscing while dying, and then the rest of the family slowly, but ultimately dealing with all the ghosts and skeletons in their individual closets.

At the time of his death, his children were practically estranged from one another. My favorite part was their coming together and reconciliation. Although while alive, he wrecked the family, he did one last good thing with his death: he brought them together.

I like how she explored the children's reaction to the death of their fathers. How does one mourn something they never had? She delved into immigration and the barriers immigrants are willing and almost always break to achieve undeniable success, no matter the cost. Kweku was too egoistical to accept defeat and to start over. Instead, he completely gave up, leaving his family to misery. Fola, a flower merchant who was too broke to sustain four children on her own, decided on a whim to send her twin children to a half-brother she did not know. I thought that it was unusual for someone as brilliant as Fola to do something as stupid. But there was nothing usual about being suddenly left with four children without a provider. The experiences of those twins in Lagos, with their drug dealer uncle would later shape the rest of their lives and have dire consequences. Olu, the firstborn child, the administrator, and very like his father became an orthopedic surgeon but finds it almost impossible to love or be loved. He had to keep a level head while his world around him changed as he knew it. Sadie, the baby, suffered from bulimia and a serious case of low self-esteem, where she just always felt out of place, unsure of everything, even her sexuality. She threw unnecessarily tantrums, if you ask me, but very expected of the baby of the house.

I mean it when I say you really have to read it to fully enjoy it. Let's just say Selasi has a new fan.

And that's it folks, my favorite book this month.

See you next month!


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