Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Transcendent Kingdom” as Want to Read:
Transcendent Kingdom
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Transcendent Kingdom

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  125,546 ratings  ·  14,577 reviews
Yaa Gyasi's stunning follow-up to her acclaimed national best seller Homegoing is a powerful, raw, intimate, deeply layered novel about a Ghanaian family in Alabama.

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
Hardcover, 264 pages
Published September 1st 2020 by Knopf (first published August 31st 2020)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Transcendent Kingdom, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Emily This is not a pushy religious book. Gifty is raised in the Pentecostal church and considers herself to be saved as a young child, but in the fallout f…moreThis is not a pushy religious book. Gifty is raised in the Pentecostal church and considers herself to be saved as a young child, but in the fallout from Nana's addiction, particularly the response of some of their congregation members to her family's struggles, Gifty leaves the church. As an adult, she chooses to become a scientist in order to pursue the same questions her religion was unable to answer about addiction, grief, and purpose through science. Gyasi does an excellent job of portraying how you can walk away from the faith of your childhood while still yearning for some of the comfort it brings, and how belief can be ambiguous rather than absolute.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.13  · 
Rating details
 ·  125,546 ratings  ·  14,577 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Transcendent Kingdom
Sep 12, 2020 rated it liked it
A really sad and thoughtful piece that questions religion and science in the face of familial loss and addiction. Though the book didn’t quite hit me as hard personally, I still think there’s a lot of emotional depth within the writing and felt a lot of sympathy for the protagonist and her family. Since the book is largely composed of the protagonist’s thought process and her internal journey grappling with her faith, perhaps readers who have a closer tie to spirituality might resonate more stro ...more
Jun 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely transcendent. A gorgeously woven narrative about a woman trying to survive the grief of a brother lost to addiction and a mother trapped in depression while pursuing her ambitions. Not a word or idea out of place. Completely different from Homegoing. THE RANGE. I am quite angry this is so good.
chai ♡
I read this book in one single setting through an intense, insomniac lull and it was—for lack of a better word—a religious experience. Deeply ruminative, relentlessly searching and immensely moving, Transcendent Kingdom is the story of a young woman and her quest to find her way back to herself, and to her mother, through a thicket of ghosts crowding both their lives. Not to be missed!
Dec 26, 2020 rated it did not like it
According to the book jacket, Transcendent Kingdom is a "deeply moving portrait," a "profound story about race," "depression and addiction." And that's what I wanted. I wanted an interesting story that can tie these different and complex topics together and offer me insight that I can take with me long after I've finished this book. But I'm sorry to say I didn't get that.

For all these worthy topics, the book hardly devotes much effort to them. They are sprinkled haphazardly across the pages, a l
Nilufer Ozmekik
Sep 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book just ruined me! I barely breathe, breaking out in sobs. I have to pull myself together! Come on, stop crying. Here comes hiccups! I have to breath in and breath out! Wow! This is one of those books ripping your heart and changing your view and your emotional state at the same time. You don’t stay as the same person. You evolve, you hurt, you grow up, you get more open minded.

This is a poignant, original, tear jerking, heart clenching story of a family who immigrated from small town of
Alok Vaid-Menon
Nov 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature
i’ve been friends with yaa for over decade. in college when she would deliver a poem on sunday mornings to our poetry collective, there would be this collective hush, like the world stopped rotating on its axis for a second. i hope to convince you that yaa is gravity personified. when she writes, matter follows.

applause is overrated. silence is the best response to good art. no word or sound does justice to the feeling of ground — that thing we thought was permanent — becoming dislodged beneath
Sep 26, 2019 rated it liked it
[3.5 stars]

“What’s the point of all of this?” is a question that separates humans from other animals. Our curiosity around this issue has sparked everything from science to literature to philosophy to religion. When the answer to this question is “Because God deemed it so,” we might feel comforted. But what if the answer to this question is “I don’t know,” or worse still, “Nothing”?

Transcendent Kingdom is a story of grief, of struggling to find meaning in the seemingly meaningless. At times
Sep 12, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020, foreign-lands
I feel uncharitable criticizing a book so personal to the author and so relatable to me (I wish I didn't live through some, a lot of this), but I think this novel would have been better written a couple of decades later in Gyasi's career, with more perspective, life experience and knowledge.

Transcendent Kingdom reads so deeply felt when it talks about Gifty's family's struggles and complex relationships in both America and Ghana, and yet so immature and pedestrian when it tries to tackle questio
Reading_ Tamishly
Jul 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
I haven't read the first book by the author but once I started reading this latest release, I got completely hooked!

This is the story of Gifty who now works as a PHD candidate doing research on mice regarding addiction and drug dependence.

The story goes back and forth how she grew up with her mom, her brother and her almost absent dad. The story is centred on depression, racism and discrimination, poverty, a dysfunctional family, drug addiction, death, grief and religion.

This story is heartbre
4.5 stars

”Homo sapiens is the only animal who believed he had transcended his Kingdom.”

Gifty’s parents immigrated to Alabama from Ghana before she was born, and Gifty, now in her late 20s, is a PhD candidate in neuroscience at Stanford University studying reward-seeking behavior in mice and the neural circuits of depression and addiction.

Personal experience drives her quest. Nana, her brilliant brother, a rising basketball star, became addicted to opioids after a sports injury. The addiction c
Yaa Gyasi makes me speechless.

That's the only conclusion I can come to. That's why I waited a month to write this review, and I still don't know what to say. That's why I took forever to review Homegoing and ended up only writing about how I had no words.

She's just that good. That's all I've got.

Bottom line: Why read what I'm writing when you can skip ahead to the good stuff?


impossible to believe this is the same author as Homegoing. in the best way. how does one br

I finished reading this book four days ago and my heart is still aching. I still cannot stop thinking about the characters, about the writing about the greatness I just read. I am suffering from the biggest book hangover from one of my favorite books of 2020.

In Transcendent Kingdom Yaa Gyasi’s second novel we meet a Ghanaian family living in Alabama. The story is told from Gifty’s perspective, she takes us into the world of her immigrant fami
Elyse Walters
Sep 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Audiobook... read by the brilliant Bahni Turpin

Yaa Gyasi is insanely talented!!
This book shimmers from start to finish! Loved, loved, loved it!!!

Highly addictive enjoyable novel.
It’s hilarious and intimate...
sad but bouncy ....

Contemporary American life - dealing with issues of immigration, a Ghanaian family— from Alabama to California—
a look at education, God, Faith, science, religion,
growing up ( funny bone laughs), dating,
loneliness, loss, grief, guilt, racism, identity, addiction, mental
4.5 stars

Ugh yes Yaa Gyasi has the range and I love that for her! While her debut novel Homegoing followed seven generations, in Transcendent Kingdom we delve deep into one immigrant Ghanaian family living in Alabama, in the United States. The story focuses on Gifty, a fifth-year doctoral candidate in neuroscience at Stanford whose brother died of a heroin overdose after sustaining a knee injury playing high school basketball. Soon after, Gifty’s mother tries to die by suicide, before settling i
Paris (parisperusing)
“Nana’s addiction had become the sun around which all our lives revolved. I didn’t want to stare directly at it. … She thought the problem would just go away, because what did we know about addiction? What, other than the ‘just say no campaigns,’ was there to guide any of us through the jungle of this?”

In her sophomore novel, Transcendent Kingdom, Yaa Gyasi sorely demonstrates the pressures Black youth must come to terms with when forced to “do the hardest thing,” to do more than what is humanl
Transcendent Kingdom is an intimate portrayal of the second-generation immigrant experience as well as the ravages of opioid abuse. Yaa Gyasi has found her voice and was in full command of the work. The pacing is perfect and the structure brilliant, with past and present seamlessly woven together.
Jul 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This was a dense, emotional read.

It’s about faith being tested, about feeling God failed you when you needed him the most. It’s about turning your back on your faith and believing only science can provide the answers but then learning it doesn’t always.

It’s about being transcended into this story. One of loss, religion, mental illness, addiction, discrimination.
It’s about a family who immigrated to America from Ghana to Alabama. This is the story of Gifty, born an American, who is a PhD candidat
Jan 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A powerful and exquisitely written character driven novel that touches on the fundamental philosophical questions of life and family life by Yaa Gyasi. It focuses on the trauma and devastation wreaked on a Ghanaian family living in Alabama. The flawed Gifty is a Stanford PhD neuroscience researcher looking for answers to human suffering in science, looking to reconcile it with the childhood religious faith and beliefs that she grew up with in a narrative that goes back and forth in time. She is ...more
Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
I re-read this following its deserved shortlisting for the 2021 Women's Prize. A second read only confirmed my impression that its omission from the 2021 Booker Prize (as well as that of "Assembly") is rather inexplicable and considerably to the detriment of that prize.

Homo sapiens, the most complex animal, the only animal who believed he had transcended his Kingdom, as one of my high school biology teachers used to say. That belief, that transcendence, was held within this organ itself. Infi
Nov 02, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, 2020, audiobooks
Why did I pick up this book? For one simple reason. I loved Homegoing. Transcendent Kingdom is nothing like it. It deals with science and religion. Gifty, the main character, questions her beliefs among other topics such as addiction origins while making experiments on mice, also race and depression, etc.

While I understand why many readers are going to love or at least like Transcendent Kingdom, these kinds of books never appealed to me. I should’ve researched this book more but I wanted to know
Aug 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
A debut like Homegoing, so massive in scope, was always going to a a difficult thing to follow. I can appreciate the pressure Gyasi was under to measure up to that book, and I think the direction she decided to go in with her sophomore novel was a smart one. Like how an actor who comes out of one distinct and identifiable role may want to pursue a next one that is completely different in order to avoid being type-cast in the future. While Homegoing was a novel spaced out over more than a half a ...more
Ron Charles
Aug 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“I would always have something to prove,” the narrator of Yaa Gyasi’s new novel says. “Nothing but blazing brilliance would be enough to prove it.”

In such passages of mingled frustration and determination, one senses an element of autobiography.
When she was just 25, Gyasi reportedly sold her debut novel, “Homegoing,” for $1 million. It was the kind of financial windfall that whips up fawning publicity and — despite the book’s success — skepticism.

If there are any skeptics left, they can stand do
Sep 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Gifty is the narrator of this story.
She is a young woman/grad student, daughter of Ghanaian immigrants and she is studying neuroscience.. trying to find what lies at the core of human beings.
Gifty, as a young girl, was very involved in her mother’s Christian faith and wrote many letters to God about her family etc..
When she suffers the death of her older brother Nana from opioid overdose and then her mother’s nervous breakdown, her questions regarding God and the “soul” surface.
The science and e
Larry H
Sep 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars, rounded up.

Yaa Gyasi's newest novel, Transcendent Kingdom , is a beautiful, moving look at grief, faith, family, and science.

Gifty is studying for her PhD in neuroscience at Stanford. Her research deals with depression and addiction, two things she knows all too well. Her older brother Nana, a talented basketball player, died of an overdose after getting addicted to OxyContin following an injury, and her mother has been virtually bedridden with grief and depression since his death
Diane S ☔
Oct 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
3.5 A much slower, understated book than her first. Told in the first person it is also more personal, centering on one family that had come to Alabama from Ghana. Gifty is our narrator and she is now grown, working in Stanford's labs. It goes back and forth from a time when her family was complete, to the present where it is just Fifty and he mother. A mother who suffers from major depression.

The themes are many, touching on subjects both common and relatable. Mental illness, addiction, love,
Brenda ~Traveling Sisters Book Reviews
"I would always have something to prove, Nothing but blazing brilliance would be enough to prove it."

I can't think of better words to describe Transcendent Kingdom, but "blazing brilliance." It is a remarkable story that is dazzling written from the first page to the very last page. It's the kind of story that brings out the thoughts and feelings I love most about reading, and I have a lot of thoughts and feeling about stories.

Transcendent Kingdom is a raw, insightful, intimate look into the
Terrie ("in and out" intermittently) Robinson
"Transcendent Kingdom" by Yaa Gyasi is a beautifully written African-American Family story.

Gifty's family is broken. An immigrant family from Ghana who settles in Huntsville, Alabama in hopes of a better life in America. The mother is the main breadwinner, the father is mostly unemployed. Tragically, the family lives in poverty.

Gifty's father decides to return to Ghana for a visit. He never returns. Instead he leaves Gifty's mother to raise their two children. Alone.

Gifty's older brother, Nana

The dust jacket copy calls Transcendent Kingdom a "profound story about race in America," "astonishingly intimate," "deeply moving," and "emotionally searing." It's none of these things. Yaa Gyasi's second book is a superficial portrayal of many heavy topics that fails spectacularly on some of the heaviest--systemic and everyday racism, and opioid addiction. Gyasi was very ambitious yet probed the depths of none of her many themes: race, death of a child, depression, drug addict
Jan 31, 2021 rated it really liked it
Last year I heard that Yaa Gyasi had finally written a new book. Needless to say I was thrilled because I so enjoyed her debut Homegoing. If it ever comes up, I will support the book over the Pulitzer winner that year Underground Railroad that was written about a similar topic. As with any of my preferred authors and their new books, I am dependent on the library and know going in that I will not be among one of the first to read it. One of my goodreads groups scheduled this book for January to ...more
Jessica J.
If, in ten years, this doesn't end up on every 'Best of the Decade' list, I don't know what to believe. This novel is astonishing and I hope it's one of the biggest books of 2020. ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Olive, Again (Olive Kitteridge, #2)
  • Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead
  • The Story of the Lost Child (The Neapolitan Novels, #4)
  • The Bromance Book Club (Bromance Book Club, #1)
  • Get on Top: Of Your Pleasure, Sexuality & Wellness: A Vagina Revolution
  • The Mister
  • Well Met (Well Met, #1)
  • We Met in December
  • Royal Holiday (The Wedding Date, #4)
  • Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth
  • The Witches Are Coming
  • Bunny
  • I Wish You All the Best (I Wish You All the Best, #1)
  • Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom
  • 鬼滅の刃 7 [Kimetsu no Yaiba 7] (Kimetsu no Yaiba, #7)
  • The Liar
  • Inland
  • A Favor for a Favor (All In, #2)
See similar books…
See top shelves…
YAA GYASI was born in Ghana and raised in Huntsville, Alabama. She holds a BA in English from Stanford University and an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where she held a Dean's Graduate Research Fellowship. She lives in Brooklyn.

YAA GYASI is available for select speaking engagements. To inquire about a possible appearance, please contact Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau at speakers@pengui

Articles featuring this book

Autumnal reading is the best kind of reading. The crisp fall air. The rustling leaves. The cardigan sweaters. You can even get the fireplace...
65 likes · 19 comments
“The truth is we don’t know what we don’t know. We don’t even know the questions we need to ask in order to find out, but when we learn one tiny little thing, a dim light comes on in a dark hallway, and suddenly a new question appears. We spend decades, centuries, millennia, trying to answer that one question so that another dim light will come on. That’s science, but that’s also everything else, isn’t it? Try. Experiment. Ask a ton of questions.” 109 likes
“If I've thought of my mother as callous, and many times I have, then it is important to remember what a callus is: the hardened tissue that forms over a wound.” 97 likes
More quotes…