Ghana Must Go

ghana must goThis week, I read two books and I’ve decided to review them separately. The first one which I read in about two days is The Fault In Our Stars, the review of which I’ve already posted. This is the second book I read this week and although it wasn’t smooth sailing from the beginning (the first 20% or so felt like a drag), it got better, the story expanded and I started to really have a good time and by the end of the book, I realized I’ve found a new female author to stalk and admire from a distance. Taiye Selasi is a mix of Nigerian and Ghanaian born in the UK but educated in America and both her parents and her twin are doctors. She, however is a novelist, screenplay writer and photographer. Talk about an artist. Of course I’ve already followed her on Twitter.

Ghana Must Go is a tale of a dysfunctional family told from the perspectives of all six family members and for this feat, I salute Taiye. She writes as mother, daughters, father and sons each of whom are so different, complex and damaged in their own way. Dr. Kweku Sai starts the novel just before the fatal cardiac arrest which claims his life. His last moments are spent reminiscing of his life and the family he abandoned sixteen years earlier in America. As the story unfolds, we see how his abandonment affects his family members from his oldest son, Olu to whom he could do no wrong, to his twins Taiwo (brass and sharp-minded) and Kehinde (the timid artist) and his daughter Sadie (originally named Folasade, the insecure baby of the house). The book explores the dynamics between Nigeria, where his wife Folasade is from and Ghana where Kweku is from.

The most interesting part of this book to me however is the relationship between the twins Taiwo and Kehinde and how although younger, Kehinde seems wiser and more mature than Taiwo. I’m intrigued by the twin telepathy both possess and of course I believe everything Taiye says about twins, seeing as she is a twin herself. This book also plays with genetics as we see Sadie physically resemble Kweku’s sisters and the twins replicas of their dead grandmother who was a half-caste. This book shows the power of a man’s ego and shame and all the things he could lose by being too proud and afraid to accept failure. I like the portrayal of Ghana in this book and I got the feeling the author hasn’t spent as much time in Nigeria as she has in Ghana, but I forgive her anyway.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s so beautifully written, almost poetic. My favorite quotes;

Or he knew: that her sacrifice was endless. And as the Sacrifice was endless, so must be the success

when faced with a thing that is fragile and perfect in a world that is ugly and crushing and cruel the correct course of action is: Give it no name. Pretend that it doesn’t exist.

ibeji (twins) are two halves of one spirit, a spirit too massive to fit in one body, and liminal beings, half human, half deity, to be honored, even worshipped accordingly.

She was a natural-born warrior, a take-no-shit Egba (or half of one, the Igbo mother dead giving birth), had faced feats far more fearsome than a mountain of debt not her making, than loneliness, than aloneness, despair.

She pushes her way to the front of those waiting, not roughly, but firmly, in the Nigerian tradition.

it’s useless to love with such force, for the force doesn’t travel, doesn’t keep them, protect them, doesn’t go where they go, doesn’t act as a shield—and yet how to love otherwise?

That mothers betray. And what happens to daughters whose mothers betray them? They don’t become huggable like Sadie, Taiwo thinks. They don’t become giggly, adorable like Ling. They grow shells. Become hardened. They stop being girls. Though they look like girls and act like girls and flirt like girls and kiss like girls—really, they’re generals, commandos at war, riding out at first light to preempt further strikes. With an army behind them, their talents their horsemen, their brilliance and beauty and anything else they may have at their disposal dispatched into battle to capture the castle, to bring back the Honor. Of course it doesn’t work. For they burn down the village in search of the safety they lost, every time, Taiwo knows. They end lonely. Desired and admired and alone in their tents, where they weep through the night. In the morning they ride, and the boys see them coming. And think: my, what brilliant and beautiful girls. Hearts broken, blood spilled. Riding on, seeking vengeance. This a most curious twist in the plot: that the vengeance they seek is the love of another, a mother-like lover who will not betray.

I really love the ‘take-no-shit Egba’ descrption of their mother. It is of noteworthy importance that all the main characters either have an afro or dreadlocks and I love it! The book explore the concept of beauty, what is beautiful and how beautiful people act. The sad irony is that Kweku’s death reunites and heals his family.

In conclusion, just because, I found Kweku’s rendition a bit slow, I’ll give this book 4 out of 5 stars. It’s a great book! And if you were wondering what the author looks like?

Taiye

PS I started reading A Thousand Splendid Suns! Whoop!