Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

This is the story of Gifty, born in Alabama to a mother who came there from Ghana. She is a neuroscience PhD candidate at Stanford, where her research program involves trying to figure out why her brother became an addict and died of an overdose when she was a child. As part of this inquiry, she also reexamines her upbringing in an evangelical church and her relationship to God, which has changed a lot as she’s grown up and become a scientist.

In the present, her mother has come to stay with her in California, which has prompted a series of memories from childhood, centered around the loss of her brother and her experience in the church, helped along by a review of her childhood journal. It’s awfully heavy on theoretical exploration–it’s so nearly constructed to discuss the relationship between brain and self, and what role, if any, God has in that–but it mostly saves itself by being very personal at the same time.

I prefer my philosophy to take more of a back seat to the personal story, but both components are here, and it certainly kept me reading and enjoying.

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