Star Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5
Ghana Must Go
Penguin Books, January 2014
Online Price: R189
He stares at the glittering, arrested by beauty, and knows what he knew all those winters ago: that when faced with a thing that is fragile in a world that is ugly and crushing and cruel the correct course of action is: Give it no name. Pretend it doesn’t exist. But it doesn’t work.
– Taiye Selasi
Ghana Must Go – a title derived from the Nigerian phrase directed at Ghanaian refugees during political unrest in the 80s – is a novel that has captured many with its poignant portrayal of the deep scab of being an “immigrant”. The book has been labelled a masterpiece and hailed as a triumph for African literature. The novel marks a bold debut by author, Taiye Selasi, who was selected as one of Granta‘s 20 Best Young British Writers in 2013.
The novel unfolds with the story of Kweku Sai, a Nigerian-Ghanaian surgeon, and how the consequences of his actions sprinkle like poison on his family, forcing them to scatter and find homes in West Africa, London and New England. It opens with Kweku dying a slow death, after suffering from a heart attack in his garden in Accra, Ghana. As he dies he relives his childhood and finally confronts his failed career and fall from grace.
His first wife, Folasadé and Olu (The Eldest), Taiwo and Kehinde (The Twins), and Sadie (The Youngest), now exiled, are reunited by his death and the trip to his funeral offers them a chance for healing. The return to Ghana, however, unzips the fractures of their being immigrants in a foreign country – even as they return to a place they always regarded as home. Selasi ties the stories of each character together into a single tear-jerking plot, centred on life as an exile and inzile.
The brilliance of Ghana Must Go not only lies in her poetic writing but in how, like master author Toni Morisson, she courts you and then dips you wholesale into the story of each character. She makes you fall in love with them, makes you understand their pain, joy and sorrow, and leaves a piece of them inside of you. On this continent where many migrate in search of a better life; Ghana Must Go is a profound tale that reminds us that wherever we may find ourselves, we will always seek our true home.
But the burning question that lingers at the end of this novel is, “Can home be truly one single place?”
Ghana Must Go is a novel that cannot be swallowed in one gulp, it’s meant to be savoured, and more than once.
About the author: Taiye Selasi was born in London to a Nigerian Mother and Ghanaian Father. She was raised in Boston and now lives in Rome. This novel is her way of facing her displacement in the world, while trying to find a sense of belonging as an African.
— Review by Thanduxolo Buti