Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi–Book Review

Gifty is a PhD student studying reward-seeking behavior in mice. She is interested in finding the neural circuits that govern addiction and depression. There’s a reason for this — her brother died of a heroin overdose after becoming addicted to oxycontin after a sports injury; her mother has suffered from depression off and on since that time.

Transcendent Kingdom: A novel by [Yaa Gyasi]

Although Gifty wants to find the solution to life’s problems through science, she cannot elude her childhood faith. This faith continues to sustain her immigrant mother who raised Gifty and her brother alone after her husband abandoned her. It became real to Gifty on the day she answered the altar call in her Pentecostal church:

“I had never felt anything like it before, and I have never felt anything like it since. Sometimes I tell myself that I made it all up, the feeling of my heart full to bursting, the desire to know God and be known by him, but that is not true either. It was as real as anything a person can feel ….”

She sees her work as holy, sacramental.

“Whenever I fed the mice…. I thought of Jesus in the upper room, washing his disciples’ feet. This moment of servitude, of being quite literally brought low, always reminded me that I needed these mice just as much as they needed me. More. How would I know about the brain without them?

The present day story line is interspersed with journal entries from her childhood, letters she addressed to God.

This is not a conventional Christian novel. There are no easy answers — instead there is struggle–. the struggle to balance faith and science, human suffering and transcendent joy, despair and hope.

VERDICT: 5 STARS. Reflective and challenging. I liked it!

For more book reviews see:

Where the Light Fell by Philip Yancey–Book Review

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger–Book Review

The Book of Wanderings by Kimberly Meyer–Book Review

It is Well with My Soul

Most people know the story behind this hymn, but I’ll repeat it again, just in case some readers haven’t heard it.  Horatio Spafford, an attorney was close to Dwight Moody and decided to visit Moody’s evangelistic meetings in England. At the last minute an urgent business matter detained Spafford in Chicago, so his wife and four daughters boarded the ocean liner alone, and he planned to follow.  On November 22, 1873, the ship collided with an iron sailing vessel and sank.  Spafford’s wife was rescued, but all of his children perished.  He immediately book passage to join his wife in Wales, where the survivors were taken.  The evening his ship passed over the place where his family’s ship went down, Spafford was unable to sleep.  He told himself, “It is well;  the will of God be done.”  Later he wrote his famous hymn based on these words.  (the melody was written by Philip Bliss).  It is truly a tribute to enduring tribulation with faith.

Anne Bradstreet –Faith and Tribulation

I’m currently reading a biography of the Puritan poet, Anne Bradstreet, and I’ll review it in a later post.  However, I came across this poem which eloquently describes Anne’s faith and fortitude during a time of suffering — the burning of her home.  It’s one of my English major moments, but I hope our readers will enjoy it and be inspired by Anne, both as a woman and a Christian.

Verses upon the Burning of our House, July 10th, 1666

Here Follows Some Verses Upon the Burning
of Our house, July 10th. 1666. Copied Out of
a Loose Paper.
In silent night when rest I took,
For sorrow near I did not look,
I wakened was with thund’ring noise
And piteous shrieks of dreadful voice.
That fearful sound of “fire” and “fire,”
Let no man know is my Desire.
I, starting up, the light did spy,
And to my God my heart did cry
To straighten me in my Distress
And not to leave me succourless.
Then, coming out, behold a space
The flame consume my dwelling place.
And when I could no longer look,
I blest His name that gave and took,
That laid my goods now in the dust.
Yea, so it was, and so ‘twas just.
It was his own, it was not mine,
Far be it that I should repine;
He might of all justly bereft
But yet sufficient for us left.
When by the ruins oft I past
My sorrowing eyes aside did cast
And here and there the places spy
Where oft I sate and long did lie.
Here stood that trunk, and there that chest,
There lay that store I counted best.
My pleasant things in ashes lie
And them behold no more shall I.
Under thy roof no guest shall sit,
Nor at thy Table eat a bit.
No pleasant talk shall ‘ere be told
Nor things recounted done of old.
No Candle e’er shall shine in Thee,
Nor bridegroom‘s voice e’er heard shall be.
In silence ever shalt thou lie,
Adieu, Adieu, all’s vanity.
Then straight I ‘gin my heart to chide,
And did thy wealth on earth abide?
Didst fix thy hope on mould’ring dust?
The arm of flesh didst make thy trust?
Raise up thy thoughts above the sky
That dunghill mists away may fly.
Thou hast a house on high erect
Frameed by that mighty Architect,
With glory richly furnished,
Stands permanent though this be fled.
It‘s purchased and paid for too
By Him who hath enough to do.
A price so vast as is unknown,
Yet by His gift is made thine own;
There‘s wealth enough, I need no more,
Farewell, my pelf, farewell, my store.
The world no longer let me love,
My hope and treasure lies above.