Ghana Must Go

Ghana Must GoThis is a wonderful novel by Taiye Selasi, a writer of Ghanian and Nigerian origin. Though she herself was born in London and brought up in Massachusets. Her novel shares some common characteristics with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s last novel, Americanah, which I reviewed here. Like that novel, the action in Ghana Must Go switches back and forth between America and West Africa. It is also at its heart a love story, though in this case a broken love story. Fola and Kweku are the two lovers and it is their love and marriage, its successes and failures and the effects of its failure on their four children which provides the bedrock of the novel. Kweku is Nigerian and Fola from Ghana, though her grandmother was a pale, ginger haired lass from Scotland, which adds a touch of the exotic to the tale. Not often a Scot is the rare, exotic creature in a story. Well done Taiye!

The novel begins with a death, the accidental death of Kweku, by then living by Accra in Ghana. It ends with his funeral and his family once again together again. In between the story switches between the present and the past and between America and Africa. This is not a tale about poor Africans as immigrant victims. Not that racism is absent, but both Kweku and Fola are very intelligent, hard working and successful people, as are their children. Though they struggle a bit at first as Kweku makes his way through college and university, the family emerges as a solid relatively rich part of upper middle income America. Kweku is an outstanding surgeon, the best in class, the children all go to the best private schools and all do well. Until tragedy strikes in a most unexpected way. Kweku is faslely accused of negligence and loses his job. His inability or unwillingness to get over this or even share it with is wife and family marks the turning point in the lives of all members of the family. Kweku just walks out and ends up back in Ghana, with no contact with his family. Fola and the children somehow survive and go on to make a success in their lives. Or so it seems. But lurking just below the surface there are ugly scars, hidden from everyone else. The surprise and sudden death of Kweku jolts the family out of its slumbers and lies. They come together to fly to Ghana for the funeral. This in turn acts as a catharsis as all the well hidden tensions and scars come pouring out. Will this finally destroy what is left of their relationships or will it bring a kind of healing?

This is an exceptionally well written and well structured novel. Though written throughout in the 3rd person, the tale moves seamlessly from the perspective of one family member to another. I just hope that Taiye Selasi goes on to write some more novels. Highly recommended and makes an excellent companion to Americanah.

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