“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” (Tolstoy)
I just finished Taiye Selasi’s highly praised Ghana Must Go and, in writing this post, the above quote immediately came to mind.
To be clear, this is a brilliant text. Beautifully written and absolutely enthralling, Selasi’s debut novel is simply extraordinary. However, reader be warned, this is a dark and at times disturbing story.
This won’t be a traditional book review because, well, I hate writing those. But really I fear that I may give away an important plot point. So, instead here is a quick synopsis: The story opens with Kweku Sai – esteemed doctor, husband, and father of four adult children – dying from a heart attack early in the morning. Using stream of consciousness, the remaining chapters reveal the story(ies) of Kweku’s life, death, and loves (his children and his wives). Each member of Kweku’s family comes to terms with his death by revisiting dark and deeply hidden family histories and psycho-pathologies.
Upon finishing the novel, I realized the brilliance of the title being named after an ephemeral variety of “luggage” popularized in West Africa during the 1980s; this is a story about baggage.
I was so enthralled with this text that I found myself throwing caution to the wind and highlighting passages (and with a pen, no less!). Rarely does my love for a passage outweigh my librarian instinct of book preservation but I was captivated by words such as quoted here: https://afrolibrarians.com/2013/11/06/what-shes-reading-2/
And here: “It amuses her, always has, this disregard of Africans for flowers, the indifference of the abundantly blessed (or psychologically battered – the chronic self loather who can’t accept, even with evidence, that anything native to him, occurring in abundance, in excess, without effort, has value)”
And here: “The only reason for dating as opposed to mating for life – was to acquaint oneself, viscerally and immediately and non lyrically, with the fact of ones “personal mortality”, nothing else.”
I could certainly go on!
These insightful (albeit often cynical) assertions are just a few examples of this novel’s exceptional narrative, particularly from a contemporary “Afropolitan” perspective. The text is full of such gems as well as other philosophical concepts (Go wild, existentialists). For this reason, I also highly recommend Ghana Must Go for a philosophy and/or Afro-lit course.
My hat goes off to Selasi for constructing a truly provocative and unforgettable debut novel. I can’t wait to dig into her short stories and am now impatiently awaiting her next project.