Ghana Must Go

( 11 )

Overview

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 ...

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Ghana Must Go: A Novel

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Overview

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 Go charts 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.

Ghana Must Go is at once a portrait of a modern family, and an exploration of the importance of where we come from to who we are. In a sweeping narrative that takes us from Accra to Lagos to London to New York, Ghana Must Go teaches that the truths we speak can heal the wounds we hide.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

In Ghana, Kweku Sai was a famous surgeon, renowned for his life-saving skills; but when his family gathers together for his funeral, they do not bask in fond memories of his professional deeds. Instead, they grapple with the personal wreckage that he left behind. When he abandoned his wife for another woman, he lost not only her, but also all four of his children. In this first novel by London-born, American-raised novelist Taiye Selasi, a family struggles towards a partial reconciliation.

Publishers Weekly
★ 01/07/2013
Selasi’s gorgeous debut is a thoughtful look at how the sacrifices we make for our family can be its very undoing. After arriving in America from Ghana, a promising but penniless young man, Kweku Sai, becomes a famed surgeon living in Boston with his wife, Fola, and children, proof of the American dream. Years later, now 57 and married to another woman, Kweku, back in Ghana, is dying in the garden of his home in Accra. After his death, Fola and their four grown children gather in Ghana for the funeral of the man who abandoned them 16 years ago. This emotional reunion reveals to what extent Kweku fractured his beloved family by leaving them. The twins, Taiwo and Kehinde, once inseparable, have not spoken in 18 months; wounded by something neither will disclose, their bond has been eroded by anguish. Olu, the eldest, emulates his father in business but wants his marriage to be “something better than” the family he knows. And the youngest, Sadie, feels inadequate in the shadow of her successful siblings. Reminiscent of Jhumpa Lahiri but with even greater warmth and vibrancy, Selasi’s novel, driven by her eloquent prose, tells the powerful story of a family discovering that what once held them together could make them whole again. Agent: The Wylie Agency. (Mar.)
The Economist
Ghana Must Go comes with a bagload of prepublication praise. For once, the brouhaha is well deserved. Ms Selasi has an eye for the perfect detail… As a writer she has a keen sense of the baggage of childhood pain and an unforgettable voice on the page. Miss out on Ghana Must Go and you will miss one of the best new novels of the season.
Kirkus Reviews
The bonds of love, loss and misunderstanding connecting an African family are exhaustively dissected in a convoluted first novel. The death of Kweku Sai, a noted surgeon, in the garden of his home in Accra, Ghana, on page one is followed by an impressionistic account of his life--glimpses of childhood and parenthood, moments of shame and bad decisions, regrets, ironies and final thoughts. One central event was the breakup of Kweku's marriage to Fola and separation from his four children: Olu, twins Taiwo and Kehinde and youngest Sadie. The remainder of the book follows the impact of the patriarch's death on this group, which assembles for the funeral. Olu, now half of a Boston-based "golden couple," doesn't believe in family. Taiwo is still in therapy after her high-profile student affair with the dean of law. Artist Kehinde, hiding in Brooklyn, yearns shamefully for his sister. And anxious Sadie is bulimic and withdrawn. This complicated cast is matched by Selasi's taste for fragmented, overloaded sentences: "That still farther, past ‘free,' there lay ‘loved,' in her laughter, lay ‘home' in her touch, in the soft of her Afro?" More secrets, wounds and identity crises are rehashed in Africa, until the scattering of the ashes restores some unity. Introverted, clotted, short of narrative drive and, above all, unconvincing, this sensitive but obsessive family anatomization will test the patience of many readers.
Library Journal
At the opening of Selasi's debut novel is Kweku Sai's death. The family he abandoned goes on a trip to Ghana to pay their respects and also on a journey of remembrance as Selasi skillfully reveals the pain each family member endures. The narrative details the Sai family's collective grief but also their discrete heartaches and individual coping strategies. With craft and compassion, Selasi allows Fola, Kweku's first wife, and her four children to tell their distinct stories in their own voices: the eldest son, Olu, who attempts to follow in his father's footsteps; the talented twins, Taiwo, a law student, and her brother Kehinde, an artist; and Sadie, the youngest daughter who barely knew her father. When the family reunites in Fola's new Ghanaian home, their individual as well as joint healing begins. VERDICT Unleashing a strong new literary voice, Selasi joins other gifted writers such as Zadie Smith and Edwidge Danticat with connections to Africa or the African diaspora. Recommended for all fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, 10/15/12.]—Faye Chadwell, Univ. of Oregon Libs., Eugene
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594204494
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 3/5/2013
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 507,968
  • Product dimensions: 6.52 (w) x 9.08 (h) x 1.12 (d)

Meet the Author

Taiye Selasi

TAIYE SELASI was born in London and raised in Massachusetts. She holds a B.A. in American studies from Yale and an M.Phil. in international relations from Oxford. “The Sex Lives of African Girls” (Granta, 2011), Selasi’s fiction debut, will appear in Best American Short Stories 2012. She lives in Rome.

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Interviews & Essays

A Conversation with Taiye Selasi, Author of Ghana Must Go

What's the origin of Ghana Must Go?

The story came to me "whole," as all stories do. I'd been waiting, thirty years I think, to write a novel—that is, to receive a story worthy of the form. It was the autumn of 2009, and I'd gone to a yoga retreat with one of my best friends in Sweden. Something about the experience—waking up every day at 5 AM to do karma yoga, pulling shrieking beets and carrots from the frozen earth, sitting in meditation meditating on hypothermia—must have jolted the thing out of me. I was standing in the shower when I saw all the Sais, all six of them, just like that. My friend and I abandoned the retreat, took the train to Copenhagen, and settled into the Admiral Hotel. It was there that I wrote the first ten pages of the novel, or perhaps more accurately: wrote them down.

What do you mean by that?

I love this Philip Glass quote: "I don't write music, I write it down." This is certainly how prose always feels to me: something remembered, something recorded, rather than a thing created. The rest of the novel took about two years to write. A crushing heartbreak, a six-month writer's block, and a rather impulsive move to Rome later, I finished a novel that told a story I already knew, had always known.

Where do you find inspiration? Are there any books that have stayed with you and influenced your writing?

I read the high school canon with great attention more because I was a good student than because I was a good reader—but three books reached out, grabbed me by the heart, and never let go. Lolita, The Great Gatsby and The Unbearable Lightness of Being changed the way I thought of novels, because Nabokov, Fitzgerald and Kundera seemed so utterly unafraid of breaking the rules. They were the three most beautiful novels I'd ever read, and lit some still-burning fire in me, a years-long desire to find and if possible to create the beautiful work. For me, this 'beautiful work' is text (novel, film, music), densely gorgeous, rich, lush, twisted, wise, created by some courageous artist who, at least in his art, is free.

After high school I stopped writing fiction altogether. I focused instead on mastering the arts of exposition and analysis, spending 7 years writing essays but never any fiction. It was in these years of drought that I discovered The God of Small Things and Moon Tiger. Neither ever left me. These novels reminded me (painfully at the time) of what prose can do that exposition cannot: render the whole world truthfully and beautifully. The worlds that Roy and Lively wrote were so familiar to me in their color, texture, grief, joy. Somehow their portraits touched my deepest memories of travel and made me again wish to create beautiful worlds of my own. At the same time I rediscovered my childhood love of photography, which sort of pushed me toward wanting to capture the beautiful world however I could. The two books, together with my Canon 5D Mark 3, continue to push in that direction.
You spend your life moving between places—Rome, New Delhi, New York—a theme that plays a key role in Ghana Must Go. What attracts you about voyages?

I have never stopped adoring the character I loved most as a girl: the beautiful wanderer. My favorite stories to read and to write before high school were fantasies: warriors flying around on dragons, princesses, magicians, wise women, journeyers. There was always that same story: someone wandering in search of something. I always loved it. In adulthood I found my way to Ocean Sea by Alessandro Baricco and Eucalyptus by Murray Bail, and felt that I'd found the most precious things of all: adult fairy tales, grown-up wanderers. I knew early on that I wanted to write fantasy, magic realism, but only after reading those books could properly imagine how.

Your writing is richly visual, but also rhythmic. Has music been a source of inspiration to you as a novelist?

Music has been as important as literature in this regard. Studying cello and piano taught me to write in rhythm, to receive words with meter, to compose in bars. I also developed a taste for a certain type of music: minor key, full of pathos. It's just what I liked best, what I wanted to listen to, how I wanted to play: Brendel playing Sonate Pathetique, Rachmaninoff playing himself, Danse Macabre. A Russian teacher Marina once scolded me for playing the piano adaptation of Grieg's "Ase Tod" perfectly but without pathos; I think of her often while writing. "The king has died," she cried. "The king is dead! You have to play these first chords as if you grieve his death." In some strange way, learning to play that way taught me to write that way, too. It's nothing I give much thought to while it's happening, but I can always see it after: Marina taught me to, demanded that I play not just the notes but the grief.

Who have you discovered lately?

In music, Susan Lewis, who runs Alicia Keys' production company (for whom I adapted a screenplay), alerted me to the genius of Elle Varner.Adore. I'm also presently smitten by Michael Kiwanuka, Meleni Smith, and the simple throwback 90s-style love songs of The Damon Hamilton Project. In art, the brilliant Frenchwoman Laure Prouvost can do no wrong in my eyes, and in letters: Chiara Barzini, NoViolet Bulawayo [We Need New Names is a Summer ;13 Discover pick. -Ed.], and Hannah Kent.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 11 )
Rating Distribution

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4 Star

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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 6, 2013

    A Master piece! Very well done Ms. Selasi. I'm a fan!

    A Master piece! Very well done Ms. Selasi. I'm a fan!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 5, 2013

    Highly recommend

    I haven't read any other books by this writer but now I am a fan. The one she builds the story kept me turning pages. As well as the accurate descriptions of people and places. It's truly a unique voice and eccentric way to weave a story.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2013

    "Ghana Must Go" is the poignant, indelible tale of an

    "Ghana Must Go" is the poignant, indelible tale of an immigrant family, brought together by the promise of the American dream, torn apart by the nightmare of racism and betrayal by family, but ultimately reunited by the power of love and African tradition.  A stylistic tour-de-force, this novel enthralls and enchants.  Selasi's supple lyricism is informed by a fierce, unblinking intelligence that analyzes the fatal legacies of colonialism as deftly as it plumbs the recesses of the individual human heart.  In "Ghana Must Go" the political is personal, and the personal is political.  When you reach the final pages of this glorious celebration of the power of language, you pray the story will never end.  This is a book of substance to be savored by seaside vacationers and scholars alike.  In her underground classic essay "Bye Bye Babbar," the brainy and unearthly beautiful Ms. Selasi has already added a new term--"Afropolitan"--to contemporary discourse about the African Diaspora.  If this is the Age of Afropolitanism, "Ghana Must Go" is its founding testament.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2013

    Anonymous

    Very confusing to get into this story. I'm having a struggle to keep going...maybe it will get better by page 150? YIKES...!!

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2013

    Finding home

    Ultimately we are all searching for the place we call home. Wanting so much to buy into what others define for us. Depending on your generation and culture it can be harder than it appears. Taiye Selasi deals with race as Americans view it, West African culture, loss as only Africans know it and a desire to move past our past. Amazingly touching and relatable to a person of any race but particularly to those of us who are made of more than one race. It touched me in so many way.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2013

    A Beautiful Must Read

    This book was beautifully written. As the book progresses, you become engulfed in the drama and trials of the family and see their growth over time. It is definitely a must read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 10, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Rich, complex, distinct character development of a family in the

    Rich, complex, distinct character development of a family in the wake of Kweku Sai's death. The characters are sympathetic through their flaws, and their reactions are plausible given how family history has affected them differently. Different, worthwhile.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2014

    TO HIGHLY RECOMMEND4/5/2014

    Sorry darlin",I tapped into MORE BY THIS AUTHOR and it looks like GHANA MUST GO is TAIYE SELASI'onlly book as of yet.It's been a little over a year since you posted your review so who knows,SELASI may have a work in progress as we're"SPEAKING"Good luck Doll. Be kind to one another. Granny B.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2013

    one star

    one star

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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