Disclaimer: I will try to share our thoughts on this book without giving out too much.
Ghana Must Go (our June Book of the month) is the first fiction book that we have all read together since the inception of the book club. We saw it fit to take a break from the serious stuff and still get to learn more about other African countries. It was through this book that I learnt to not judge a book by its cover and not to pre-empt a book.
I had two expectations about the storyline of the book. I assumed that it would touch on the eviction of Ghanaians from Lagos, Nigeria in 1983. I also assumed there would be frequent references to the blue, red and white bags commonly known as ‘Ghana Must Go’ bags.
Also, having been to Ghana before, I expected a deep narration of life in the country but only really felt a deep sense of it having gone past halfway through the book.
Both themes were hardly referred to in the book and needless to say, I was slightly disappointed particularly on the very little historical mention of the Ghana Must Go expulsion. It was at our last book club (26th June) where we were discussing the book that I got a bit more insights on how the book could have linked to the historical event. What would I do without you ladies? 🙂 I will be touching a bit on this later but in all fairness to the author, I should not have set expectations on the book. No one should ever do that to a book.
Just a bit of an introduction to the author- Taiye Selasie is half-Nigerian and half-Ghanaian (giving the title more credibility). She was born in London, raised in Boston and has Toni Morrison as her mentor! She is Yale and Oxford-educated.
heck out her Ted Talks video to check out some of that Black Girl Magic for yourself!
The book was met with mixed reactions from the ladies but we all agreed that the beginning was ambiguous. Taiye did not develop the characters quick enough for us to really get into the book and know the characters well enough to start enjoying it fully. I was confused as to who Olu or Kehinde or Taiwo were and I must have only gone past the 100th page (out of 318) when the book was now flowing for me and it was then that it became a page turner.
There were also a few parts that I found random like when Taiwo found her father, Kweku, slumped on the couch and for the first time she saw his calloused, chafed feet- a sight that not only scared her but also made her see him in a totally different light than ever before. Maybe I just missed the point of the vivid and extensive scene.
Now to the more positive side-there were a couple of jaw-dropping moments for example Kweku’s sudden departure from his family. It was your typical ‘Khumbulekhaya’ story-Dad here today, Gone tomorrow. I did not see it coming and given the love that Kweku had for his family, I really hoped there would be a happy ending, like we all did when watching the show. Another hair-raising plot to the story was when the twins were staying in Nigeria with their uncle and the sexual assault occurred. I whizzed quickly past that moment because I found it difficult to imagine such an experience and between two siblings! Perhaps the one question I would have, given a chance to dine with Taiwo, would be how such a traumatic event could have occurred and yet the twins were still comfortable enough to share a bed together years later in Ghana. I cannot fathom being able to do that even though it happened through no fault of theirs. Perhaps this was a survival tactic for them given that they were bound by a secret that they did not want to acknowledge. Showing discomfort would have made the incident real.
During our Book Club session, we also discussed Taiwo’s relationship with the Dean. The affair was obviously frowned upon but it was also very interesting to see them just fall in love. It just was what is was. Do not worry. I will not be on a #Moralsmustfall campaign but it was interesting to see something so illicit look so pure and real.
Given our discussion, I can finally understand the link between the book title and the storyline. Fola (Nigeria) leaving Nigeria and finally settling in Ghana, the place that becomes her home after Ghana (Kweku) leaves her could be reason for the title. Perhaps it was also for the marketability of the book. A title of such significance is bound to catch ones attention.
This was not the easiest book to read in the beginning but I am glad I read it till the end. For a first book, Taiye did very well. Her poetic writing is what authenticates the book and makes it a joy to read with the biggest lesson being the impact our childhood experience of family on how we approach life and relationships in general. It is safe to say that with each generation comes a lesson and it is therefore our choice to learn from the previous generation and also impart our own knowledge to the next generation. Let us keep transferring the baton
The quote that resonated with the members:
‘We did what we knew. It was what we knew. Leaving’
‘We learned how to love. Let them learn how to stay’