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All booksLiterary fictionTranscendent Kingdom
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
Literary fiction

Transcendent Kingdom

by Yaa Gyasi

Quick take

A push-and-pull between science and faith, as a child of Ghanaian immigrants copes with loss and unanswered questions.

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Why I love it

Jenna Bush Hager
Co-host, TODAY with Hoda & Jenna

If you asked me to choose a favorite book written in the last decade, I would have to pick Yaa Gyasi’s debut novel, Homegoing. I distinctly remember reading that epic debut novel, unable to tear myself away from the story. When I heard Gyasi had a second book out, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy. And let me tell you, it does not disappoint.

Transcendent Kingdom tells the story of a young Ghanaian-American woman named Gifty who is pursuing a Ph.D. at Stanford University. Her brother, Nana, has passed away from an overdose after an OxyContin prescription for an ankle injury led him to a heroin addiction, and her mother, gravely depressed, has come to stay with her. In a quest to understand the suffering that she and her family have experienced, Gifty throws herself into her neuroscience research. But in her search for answers, she also finds herself increasingly drawn back to the evangelical faith in which she was raised.

Where do we look for solace when the worst happens? How do we make sense of senseless tragedies? This is a story about those big questions. But it’s also a book about mental health and race and I believe that, at this moment in our culture, it will lead to some really important conversations. Not to mention the fabulous writing—as I read, I underlined so many gorgeous sentences. Readers familiar with Gyasi’s work, and those approaching her for the first time, will be blown away by this powerful, timely book.

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Gifty is a fifth year candidate in neuroscience at Stanford School of Medicine studying reward seeking behavior in mice and the neural circuits of depression and addiction. Her brother, Nana, was a gifted high school athlete who died of a heroin overdose after a knee injury left him hooked on OxyContin. Her suicidal mother is living in her bed. Gifty is determined to discover the scientific basis for the suffering she sees all around her.

But even as she turns to the hard sciences to unlock the mystery of her family's loss, she finds herself hungering for her childhood faith, and grappling with the evangelical church in which she was raised, whose promise of salvation remains as tantalizing as it is elusive. Transcendent Kingdom is a deeply moving portrait of a Ghanaian-American family ravaged by depression and addiction and grief—a novel about faith, science, religion, love.

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Get an early look from the first pages of Transcendent Kingdom.

Member thoughts

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All (11161)
Love (6155)
Like (4312)
Dislike (694)
11293 ratings
  • 55% Love
  • 38% Like
  • 6% Dislike
  • Fremont, CA

    i don’t know if i just identified a lot with this book but it really just made me think. no, the plot isn’t thrilling and the characters aren’t unrealistically deep but that’s what made it hit more.

  • Sunnyvale, CA

    Dear Ma, I’ve been thinking a lot about whether or not believing in God is compatible with believing in science. These 3 relationships—with her mom, with her faith, and with science—define the story!

  • Nashville, TN

    This book was inspiring & led to a lot of critical thinking on my part. I fell in love with Gifty & wanted to hug her. I don’t know if I would say it’s quite worth the hype, but it’s a very good book.

  • Layton, UT

    I personally loved this book. It is not a plot-driven novel, but Gifty’s internal dialogue beautifully grappled with family, faith, addiction, grief, and healing. And of course Gyasi’s gorgeous words!

  • Lemoore , CA

    I didn’t know what to expect about this book but WOW! This was a great book of a young woman’s life with a mom who is in a depressive state for long periods in her life, and the story of her brother.

  • Plymouth Meeting , PA

    ❤️ the multi-layered issues of the refugee experience, the push-pull of science vs faith, the family dynamics, the racial experience, her brother’s experience as an athlete & hers as a woman in STEM

  • Marietta , GA

    Loved hearing about her family and her faith. Recommend to anyone who’s struggling/struggled with faith or relates to addiction or depression. Related to so many of her faith doubts. A memorable read.

  • Milton Freewater , OR

    Transcendent Kingdom explores main character Gifty’s journey with faith and science, work and family. Quiet, yet powerful, and masterfully done, Yaa Gyasi has once again shown us she’s one to watch.

  • Westminster, CO

    Turmoil. Between her and her mother, brother and God. Gifty was a scientist trying to uncover the answers to life’s biggest ailments, with religion being at the center. Her uncertainty was relatable.


    I absolutely loved this book. Yaa Gyasi has a gift. Her writing is so beautiful and precise. I just finished it and feel like I’m not ready to let go of this one yet. I almost want to start it again.

  • Lorena, TX

    When I love a book it’s often because I am propelled by the plot as I burn through the pages. This time I loved the main character and listening to her tell her story so much I never wanted it to end.

  • Rochester, NY

    It took me a little bit to get into this one, but then suddenly I couldn’t put it down. I felt so deeply for the characters. Gifty’s pain and search for meaning through it all were so raw and real.

  • Dallas, TX

    I’m not even sure what made me choose this book, but I am SO GLAD I did. I really loved Gifty and the tumultuous but honest feelings and relationships she experienced. I love how real this novel felt.

  • Chevy Chase, MD

    The book covers a lot of ground: racism, religion, addiction, science, depression & more – but never feels weighted down. Instead, it ricochets from topic to topic through narrative of Ghanaian family

  • Lacey, WA

    Poignant and introspective, Transcendent Kingdom reads more like a memoir as the narrator tries to reconcile her faith and scientific pursuits with her brother’s addiction and mother’s depression.

  • Dayton, OH

    Honest, heartbreaking, so true, I really enjoyed reading this tale of Gifty’s family and getting to know herself. This book has heart and the nonlinear timeline added to my building love of the book!

  • Englewood, CO

    Beautifully written story that expertly deals with science, the church, and God. Throw in other important topics such as addiction, mental illness, and immigration, creating one of 2020’s best books.

  • Brooklyn, NY

    A beautiful intersection of a young woman’s relationship with religion and science. Exquisitely written, Gifty’s story pulls you in immediately and leaves you thinking about your own experiences.

  • Newtown, PA

    Beautiful writing that gave me much to think about. I felt all of Gifty’s emotions through how she reacted to all of the tragedies. How she contemplated science and faith and its place in her life.

  • Pauline , SC

    Beautifully written book, mostly about family relationships, friendships, and how those things are affected by life events. Some racial issues addressed, but didn’t seem to be the overriding theme.

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