This is a novel which seems to look through a microscope and a telescope at the same time. On the one hand we get a very detailed view of certain incidents in the stories of the various members of the Sai family – particularly the death of Kwaku and each of the parents’ memories of their own families – on the other hand we see very little detail of some of the big events like Kwaku’s desertion of his wife and children or Folasadé’s life as a single mother. Other parts of the tale – particularly details of traumas suffered by the children – are revealed gradually.
The book is beautifully written. There are a number of different narrators but each voice is distinct – you even hear the Ghanaian and Nigerian accented english (which I must admit I recognise from sketches by the late Felix Dexter in episodes of The Real McCoy ). It is not an easy read since we do jump from one narrator to another and back and forth in time but it certainly can reward you if you are able to take the time to focus on the writing. I can also see that it could be possible to see the problems faced as minor since, during most of the book, the characters are living very priviledged lives (private schools for the children followed by Ivy League Universities, careers as doctors and respected artists). Personal tragedy, however, is not limited to the oppressed. Oddly I didn’t feel that it was an ‘African’ novel – the characters are searching for their own identities, be they American, Nigerian or Ghanaian – but a far more inclusive story which we could all take something from.