Author:
• Saturday, October 01st, 2016

Taiye Selasi was born in London in 1979 and raised in the USA. Her Nigerian mother, currently living in Ghana, was born in England but raised in Nigeria. Her Ghanian father was born in the British colony of Gold Coast, grew-up in Ghana and now lives in Saudi Arabia.

She was brought up in Brookline, Massachusetts, the elder of twin daughters in a family of physicians: her mother is a paediatrician, her father a surgeon and her twin sister a physiatrist. Tayie obtained her BA degree in American Studies with great honour from Yale University and received an MPhil in International Relations from Oxford University.

To date Taiye Selasi has written four short stories and one novel: “Ghana Must Go” in 2013, which was a big success, has been translated to several languages and made into a film. The novel title refers to the Nigerian phrase directed at the Ghanaian refugees coming in numbers during the 1980s political turmoil in their country. In 1969 a similar situation occurred but in reverse. Due to economic depression, Ghana expelled the Nigerians working on its territory.

Taiye Selasi lives in Rome. She is a writer and a photographer.

The story of Ghana Must Go is divided into three parts: “Gone”, “Going” and “Go”. It begins with the death of the fifty-seven-year old protagonist, Kweku Sai, in his garden in Accra, Ghana, as a result of a heart attack. His second wife, the undemanding, placid Ama, is sleeping nearby unaware that her husband is dying.

Before taking his last breath and while stretched on the grass, flashbacks of Kweku’s early life surge like waves. He is full of remorse for having been a failure as a surgeon, a husband and a father and to have gone back to his native Ghana, abandoning his wife and four children in the USA several years earlier and hiding the fact from them about a wrongful and outrageously unjust dismissal from Boston hospital.

Kweku feels the loss of his pride after losing his job, despite being a skilled surgeon, as a result of betrayal by his superiors and other doctors who privately agreed that it would have been impossible to save the old lady anyway. He realises that outstanding skill doesn’t transcend race. For that reason he is used as a scapegoat in order to please and appease the hospital’s wealthy white benefactors who demanded that someone take the blame and face the consequences of “the failed surgical intervention” which led to the death of the old frail lady during her heart operation.

Kweku, the family patriarch, abandons his Nigerian wife, Folasadé Savage, to fend for herself, unaware of the implications of his irrational decision on the family. He is leaving his broken-hearted wife who once had a promising career as a law student and had to give up her studies and sell flowers in order to support her husband’s career and raise their four children: Olu, the eldest son, the twins, Taiwo and Kehinde, and the last born, Sadie.

The mother is distraught, unable to cope on her own and due to Kweku’s betrayal, the whole family is dispersed across continents with each member trying to find himself and his own path.

Olu becomes an orthopaedic surgeon and marries Ling, the Chinese-American specialised in gynaecology and obstetrics, in Las Vegas. The good-looking twins, Taiwo and Kehinde, who, when children, were mentally and emotionally scarred for life by their maternal uncle in Lagos, are struggling with their past trauma. The suicidal Kehinde becomes a successful artist. The aloof Taiwo is studying Law and is the editor of the Law Review at Colombia University. And the bulimic, discomfited Sadie, the youngest of the four and her mother’s favourite, is a student at Yale University.

The flashbacks and present events, which are viewed through a different angle according to each of the six main characters, move constantly throughout the story and are set between the USA, England and Africa. The reader follows each character and discovers the truth revealed in layers. Although the author meanders aimlessly in part one, “Gone”, the two other parts: “Going” and “Go” are more focused, delivering the main theme of the novel, being the trials and tribulations of the Sai family.

Kweku’s death reunites the fragmented family after so many years of separation. His wife and four children are all gathered under the same roof in their mother’s home in Ghana for the funeral. So many years have past and now comes the time of reckoning to heal and clear the unspoken feelings, thoughts and hopes.

Ghana Must Go is a touching story depicting how emotional, irrational decisions in a patriarchal family can affect the whole family’s life. It is also about the shame that follows failure which subsequently leads to forlornness.

The author deals with several themes in her novel: the immigration problem, the patriarchal society structure, the intermarriage issue which affects children who often spend their life searching for identity and feeling stateless, especially by being uprooted. The author also depicts the strong blood ties, racism, loneliness, the intricacies in family relationships and how childhood experience affects adult life, as well as strongly illustrating the complexity of the human psyche.

 

 

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Category: Book Reviews
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