I remember the first time I heard the title of this book. I had initially giggled to myself as I considered the use of that phrase as the title of a novel. It is a catchy phrase. It is a well known phrase. It’s also a phrase that may cause some pain. History tells that when Nigerian’s had demanded the removal of Ghanian immigrants in the 80s, the Ghanians were forced to use the red, blue and white plastic bags to gather their belongings. Hence the term for the bags, ‘Ghana must go’. I had assumed that the book would relate to Ghana in some way. I assumed that it would tell the tale of the suffering of the displaced Ghanians. Instead, it told a different tale. A tale of suffering and displacement nonetheless.
Salesi tells the tale of family. A tale of brokenness, she tells the tale of suffering, of silence, of a family that is one in name only. She tells a story of the shame that can come after one mistake. The shame that can cause a man to react. The pain that can cause him to cower and run. The shame that can turn a man into a child. She tells the tale of a mother who is trying her best. Who tried her best. However, she tells that ‘best’ is a relative term. Good mothering to one child is bad parenting to another. Salesi tells of the struggle children face as they attempt to leave their legacy of shame behind. The tears are not enough, they will never be enough to convey the suffering within a broken soul.
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Kweku is a Ghanian surgeon married to Folashade. After the death of a prominent patient and his dismissal, he flees his home in Boston and his young family. Kweku was incorrectly punished, Kweku was used as a scape goat. Kweku was used as a sacrificial lamb. But he fled. Fled to his homeland. Perhaps he did not plan on fleeing forever, but the thing with running is once you start running from your past, it becomes very difficult to stop. Folashade is determined, so she runs as well. She packs up house and leaves with her children. She is determined to be independent and free of her runaway husband. She makes her choices, makes her sacrifices; Salesi allows you to decide whether these choices were to her detriment or not.
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Olu the first son, becomes a doctor like his father and marries Ling his sweetheart. Their marriage is proof that love can only get you so far. You need to be whole, you need your own healing and that cannot be found by getting married. Taiwo and Kehinde were sent to Lagos to live with an ‘uncle’, when their father left. Their uncle was supposed to protect them, care for them, educate them. But there are too many uncles with too much power in the world. Too many uncles who take advantage. Too many uncles who mistake abuse as a sign of power. Too many uncles whose actions can best be described by scars on wrists, and words best left unsaid. Sadie is the baby of the family. Folashade holds on to her. Folashade does not want to let go. The umbilical cord may have been cut, but Folashade holds on to Sadie like it never was. She smothers her, she doesn’t give her room to soar, her possession threatens to stunt Sadie.
Kweku dies, he dies in his homeland Ghana. His family gathers, along with Folashade, they come to the place he called home. His adult children come home. His death is the drop that creates a ripple. The ripple effect that brings healing. The healing brought by speaking and listening. Listening is such a powerful thing. From Lagos to Accra, New-York to Boston, family is family and suffering is suffering.
Taiye Salesi’s debut novel is a beautiful piece of literature. Her way with words and turn of phrase can capture the lazy eye and wandering mind. It’s truly a beauty to behold! I cannot wait for what she does next!
What are you reading? Do share below! You know Dami loves to read.
Until next time.