Parental neglect, sibling rivalry, racism, bulimia, paedophilia, allegations of professional misconduct… Nobody could accuse Taiye Selasi of lacking ambition. Her first novel moves easily between West Africa and the east coast of the United States and, after a wobbly start, delivers a genuinely heart-warming ending.
Kweku Sai, the central character, is a tragically inadequate patriarch. Born into poverty in Ghana, he seems to have the world at his feet as he moves to Boston, trains as a doctor, marries a beautiful Nigerian woman and fathers four children bright in promise. But then, after being sacked from his job as a surgeon, his nerve fails him. He deserts his family, returns to West Africa and is dead before he is 60. The sense of a wasted life, and of riddles not properly explained, pervades.
The bulk of the narrative is taken up with the preparations for Kweku’s funeral. As news of his death reaches his now grown-up children in the US, they make plans to return to Ghana. All four are interesting characters in their own right. One son has followed his father into the medical profession, another has become an artist; one daughter is bulimic, the other is having a flaky affair with a married man.
As the pieces of the jigsaw fall into place, Selasi examines both the fragility and durability of family life. The subtle cultural differences between West Africa and America a ... Read Full Review