by Taiye Selasi
The Plot. Kweku, Ghanaian immigrant to the US, surgeon and father of four, one day just disappears and leaves his family without warning. His wife and children start drifting apart and lead their own unhappy lives until the news of Kweku’s death brings them together again at the mother Fola’s house in Nigeria where they had never visited before.
And what I thought of it. You know those novels in which nothing really happens, all people are extremely boring although they’ve had traumatic experiences and one would think that at least the trauma would make a book more interesting… yeah, well, this is one of those books.
The books starts with Kweku’s death – a detailed description of his last minutes, his last thoughts, his last breath, his last walk into his garden. His passing away takes up about 40 pages that have a rather experimental, postmodern feel to them and transport an almost meditative peaceful mood. So far, so good. I might have actually liked the book if the rest had been like this.
Next are flashbacks of Kweku coming to the US, him meeting Fola, them having children, flashbacks to the children’s lives and how they grew up while they travel to Kweku’s funeral. The bereaved aren’t bereaved at all, they don’t really talk to each other although they haven’t seen their siblings for years, and they’re all holding little or large grudges against each other – which turn out to be really insignificant things in some cases, like being jealous for the mother’s attention.
At the end of the book, the siblings and the mother do get their one-on-ones and talk about what bothers them, but somehow I was left with the feeling that they still hadn’t managed to actually communicate what was standing between them all those years, or they didn’t manage to pinpoint what troubled them. And everyone goes their own way again. Hooray.
For me, the end of the book was as pointless as was the whole book itself – no real plot, no real conversations, no real feelings, and no character development unless you want to be extremely generous and count Kweku going from alive to dead, and the youngest child, Sadie, from having body image issues to experiencing what it’s like to dance and get lost in music.
In real life, I can’t stand people who aren’t capable of voicing their opinions and at least protest against things they don’t like or aren’t comfortable with, so maybe that contributed to me not liking the book. Or it’s just that nothing happened on several hundred pages and the family still doesn’t get their shit together even though they’re talking to each other again.