Book Review: Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi

Around the World for a Good Book selection for Ghana

Author: Taiye Selasi
TitleGhana Must Go
Narrator: Adjoa Andoh
Publication Info: Penguin Audio (2013)

I was surprised that my Around the World for a Good Book selection for Ghana turns out to have a good portion of the narrative set close to home in the Boston, Massachusetts area.  Selasi’s novel is a story of immigration, family, the long term ramifications of choices made, and an attempt to peer beyond the stereotypes of Africa and Africans.

The novel is set around the family of Kweku Sai, long isolated from one another, coming together in Ghana for his funeral.  Kweku immigrated to America where he became a celebrated surgeon, but after being unjustly fired, the great shame causes him to leave his family and return to Ghana.  His wife Fola was a law student who gave up her career to support Kweku, and faces difficult choices when forced to raise 4 children on her own.  The eldest son Olu follows his father into medicine, but his father’s abandonment leaves him fearful of commitment.  The sister-brother twins Taiwo and Kehinde bear the scars of being sent to live with Fola’s brother in Nigeria after Kweku’s departure and the sexual abuse they suffered there. The youngest child Sadie didn’t know her father at all and until shortly before the main narrative begins had been very close with her mother.  All of their stories are told in extended flashbacks intertwined with the present day story.

This is a heartbreaking and harrowing novel and should come with a big trigger warning.  It unfortunately tends toward the melodramatic although there is honesty in the family dynamics portrayed.  Thankfully, this is also a story of redemption and healing, although it is still hard to not feel unsettled after reading.

Recommended booksThe Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri  and Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan
Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: Wife of the Gods by Kwei J. Quartey

Around The World For a Good Book selection for: Ghana

Author: Kwei J. Quartey
Title: Wife of the Gods
Publication Info: New York : Random House, 2009.
ISBN: 9781400067596

Wife of the Gods is a murder mystery set in the Volta Region of Ghana, the first in what will be a series about Inspector Darko Dawson of the CID.  Dawson lives and works in Accra, the capital and major city of Ghana, but is called in to solve the case of the murder of a medical student who had been working with the trokosi – or wives of the gods – young girls who are offered up to the local fetish priest.  Quartey balances a lot of issues in this novel: the country versus the city, the folkways and superstitions that retain a hold on many Ghanains versus Dawson’s skeptical, modern beliefs, and Dawson’s haunted past versus his effectiveness of working on the case.  Dawson is an interesting character with contrasting qualities:  a family man, a hard-working detective yet prone to rages and fond of marijuana.  This is a interesting story that offers a glimpse into life in modern-day Ghana.  The mystery is pretty good too.

Recommended books: I have no specific reccomendations but please ignore all the comparisons to the works of Alexander McCall Smith. This book and The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agencies are good in their own ways, but the similarities are superficial.
Rating: *** 1/2