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on 10 September 2013
This novel was chosen by my book group, and I was quite intrigued to be introduced to a new writer. The start of the story is original, introducing us to the characters and situation through the internal dialogue of someone whose fate we already know from the first line. The rest of the book presents the disturbing story of this rootless exiled African family through the points of view of the mother and the four children. These multiple points of view were the source of my confusion as I worked my way through. Maybe it was me, but at times I lost track of where we were, when the narrative was happening (it moves forward and back in time as much is based on the memories of characters, how they experienced key events), and even who we were. The author writes in an original style. Lots of sentences without verbs. Quite a few cliches popping up in the story. But overall a worthwhile read about family, love, loss and coming to terms.
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on 11 February 2014
Occasionally there are books that completely absorb me, like being parched thirsty and plunging into a deep well. Ghana Must Go is one such book. Captivating, dazzling and utterly heart wrenching, it chronicles the unravelling of a Nigerian-Ghanaian family living in the United States.

A shameful yet frustratingly surmountable event compels the father, Kweku Sai, to brusquely leave his gorgeous wife Fola and their four little boys and girls, causing them to fracture and spiral out into the world – New York, London, West Africa – on uncertain and troubled journeys. We see them grow up and forge their own paths in life, fiercely licking the wounds of their difficult adolescence, only to be reunited around their mother when they finally need each other most.

Taiye Selasi writes beautifully, disguising poetry as prose, often cloaking her words in delicious rhythms that tick through your head as you read. She paints a powerful picture of a broken family, disturbing in parts, examining the astonishing resilience and fragility of human beings and relationships, and peeling back the layers of each character to the extent that you long to reach out and hold them.

Reminiscent of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Jhumpa Lahiri (two of my favourite authors), but with greater warmth and depth, Ghana Must Go explores how it is to live across cultures, touching on themes and evoking emotions that resonate with us all.

Short sentences and quick-fire dialogues are interspersed with lilting descriptions, and observations so perceptive that they make you catch your breath. A stunning passage on seeing beauty in ugliness and ugliness in beauty made me pause to reread and reflect, a thought-provoking surprise within the narrative.

All in all Ghana Must Go is an unforgettable, powerful and affecting novel. It totally blew me away… don’t miss out on this daring and mesmerising tour-de-force!
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on 9 June 2013
Selasi has developed her own style of writing - short sentences, many of which are incomplete on their own, like brushstrokes. It means you have to read quite fast so that you can see the picture they are painting. In the beginning I found it quite patronising, and as I was reading slowly at the time I found it hard to feel engaged. After about a third the story picks up and I began to read faster and suddenly all of the staccato sentences began to form beautiful images and ideas. Which is fitting as Selasi appears to be very concerned about looks - she spends a lot of time talking about how beautiful the characters are - or how not beautiful other characters are/feel. There are lots of emotions, pretty descriptions and at the heart of it an intriguing and touching story. At times it felt a little staged at other times it was really astute. I loved the scene where Olu goes back to Ghana to meet his father who he has built up in his head so much, only to find an ordinary looking man in the throng of people at the arrival gates - no longer sticking out for his blue-black skin as he had done in America.

Overall I have just come out of a long phase of not reading and this book helped to bring me out. I think there is much to enjoy in this book and recommend it highly.
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on 25 May 2013
This is a story of a family. The shadow - or perhaps footprint - of Kweku Sai, whose death opens the narrative, marks the remaining characters like a bruise. The past is part of the present for the cast of complex, damaged individuals who draw you into their worlds.

The fractured structure, the geographical spread, the atmospheric evocation of locations and relations are handled with confidence and grace. For a debut novelist, Selasi's talent cannot fail to impress. This story is beautifully written and reaches the reader's sensibilities via sensory and emotional faculties.

The gradual reveals of how-we-got-here is handled with all the subtlety and sleight-of-hand of a classic crime writer, while the revelations of how familial and cultural ties leave (in)visible marks touched me and made me think, as does the very best literary fiction.

My own narrow perspective regarding literature and cultural comprehension cause me to compare Ghana Must Go to Half of a Yellow Sun and Things Fall Apart. This is unfair, as Selasi describes a family, and Adichie and Achebe describe a historical/political events through the eyes of a family/individual. So my sense of disappointment at the insistently internal gaze is my own hindrance.

These characters are certainly interesting to the reader, but so much more so to themselves. So I finished this with a sense of privilege of having being allowed into these heads, but also a sense of gratitude for being allowed back into the wider world. Taiye Selasi has undeniable talent and I will be eager to see how she develops.
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on 19 April 2013
A beautifully written novel that so vividly captures the orchestrated complexity of human relationships. I have laughed and cried with the Sai family and now, at the book's end, feel I've finished a long conversation with a dear friend.
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on 29 April 2013
i was keen to read a copy of this book as has read a lot of press reviews and author interviews before publication. it was a slow start and i have to say that at times i was tempted to leave the book and not finish it. Bu am glad that i persevered as the story does pick up about a third of the way through the book and as all the characters started coming together in the book, made for a much more interested book to read.
So i would say if you have been reading the various press reviews/seen the author being interviewed and are intrigues by the reviews - give it a go. you will be pleasantly surprised.
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on 26 February 2014
The writing is really something, absolutely beautiful and full of unexpected imagery.
But the book just feels stuck in a moment, a very key moment - the death of a father and husband - but one that leads to a lot of very pretty and very rich description sans much of a plot.
It's a bit like a car journey through picturesque countryside and no end. A struggle.
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This intense and powerful family drama tells of the Sai family, half Nigerian, half Ghanaian, whose lives fall apart when the father Kweku, a respected surgeon in the US, is accused of malpractice and abandons his family. The repercussions of this reverberate through the years and tear the family apart. When news of his death reaches his wife and four children, they come together to re-establish the links between them, to look back at and try to make sense of what has happened to them and to attempt, if possible, to piece the family back together.
Original and beautifully crafted, I found this a moving and haunting novel of family love, with acute psychological insight and observation. The writing is lyrical and poetic, and in fact often reads like poetry with its rhythms and language. I found myself reading some of the passages out loud as if it were indeed a work of poetry not prose. Perhaps sometime the writing does become a little over-blown, and some of the images and descriptions seem to strive too much for effect, with echoes of Toni Morrison's more purple passages, but overall this is a very minor quibble. I was completely caught up in the characters, all of whom I found credible and sympathetic, and the sense of place in both the US and especially in Africa was both atmospheric and vividly drawn. Immigration and what it means to be African both in Africa and in the diaspora is sensitively and compellingly portrayed. It's an absorbing and haunting novel and one which I very much enjoyed.
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on 18 September 2013
I very much enjoyed the opening section of the book describing simply, memorably, and indeed perhaps unforgettably, the death of Kweko, how it comes about, how it could have been avoided, what his reflections are on his life in the present, in Ghana, and the layout of his house and garden and the story of its construction, and so on.

Then the rest of the book goes in, much more, to his back story, the various traumatic episodes that have created a dysfunctional (but not terminally dysfunctional) family, and the aftermath of Kweko's death as his first wife and his four children come together in Ghana to mourn his death.

At that point I started to feel I did not really believe people mostly behave as they do in this plot; and that anyway what a family it is to have such extremely brilliant children one and all, to have such a brilliant father, to have dizygotic girl and boy twins who have the exceptional bonds that are sometimes thought to exist for monozygotic twins, and so on...At the end of the book Kweko's first wife ponders why she and Kweko have behaved as they did. It clearly has something to do, she thinks, with 'Ghana must go', a scheme that led to the expulsion of Ghanaians from Nigeria...not really an explanation I found very convincing.

So I had very mixed feelings about this, torn between its beauty and its observation on the one hand, and its rather unsatisfying underlying narrative plot, on the other....Others may - and many clearly do - feel very differently about this..
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on 6 April 2014
A man dies and we learn about his life, his family members' lives and the setting which determines their stories. There are glimpses of Nigeria, New York, Ghana that enlighten readers and encourage further reading.

Initially I was not drawn in to this novel and found it over-written. I then changed my mind as I realised the structure. The death, the lead up to the death in its widest sense, and the spring-boards.

By the time I got to chapter 5 I was totally immersed in the story of this family. Also, the insight the novel allows into the cultural underflow of aspiring families, the issues over genetic origins, inter-marriage, individual differences.

The writing is sometimes fragmented to indicate heights of emotion. Selasi shows great skill in analysing and detailing minute thought processes so that the reader really feels inside each character in turn.

Highly recommended.
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