Ghana Must Go

Kweku Sai is a highly respected Ghanaian surgeon at Hopkins hospital, in Boston. When a family member of a wealthy benefactor to the hospital needs an operation, Kweku is the one called upon to do it. But when the operation fails, he is sacrificed by the hospital. Embarrassed to face his beautiful Nigerian wife (Fola) and his children (Olu, the twins Taiwo and Kehinde, and Sadie), Kweku flees from his family. This is the start of the crumbling of an otherwise stable and successful Sai family.

Not coping with the costs of raising four children in Boston, Fola sends her twins to her dodgy stepbrother, Femi, in Nigeria. They are abused and forced to have sex with each other. Rescued by a friend, they are then sent back to their mother, but they keep their experiences with Femi to themselves.

Reserved and determined to be the best, Olu becomes an orthopaedic surgeon. He marries Ling whose father doesn’t bless the relationship because he says African men don’t respect family values.

At 20 Sadie feels she is not good enough compared to her siblings, who she views as successful.

Not coping in the US, Fola moves to Ghana

It is at this point that Kweku, now married to a docile Ama, dies of heart attack. This tragedy brings the whole family together in Kweku’s ancestral home in Ghana. Grief brings out all the tension and tightly held secrets.

The Ghana Must Go story line is believable. TheSai family are a normal family playing out family dynamics of success, insecurity and betrayal. Kweku is suffocated by the burden of “success” as an African man and as a doctor in a foreign country. The interplay between these identities drives him to a tragic and lonely end. It also shows the burden that women carry as anchors of families, both during times of success and failure. Fola is the bridge between Kweku and his Ghanaian family, his children, and his second wife, in life and in death. I empathise with the hard choices she has to make to guarantee a better future for her children. She is a typical African woman; enterprising and focused on the survival of her family, even at her expense.

This is not a book to read when you are half awake. It has twists, turns and nuances that are further complicated by the flashback writing technique. It covers vast timelines and geographies. You can easily loose the storyline. The language is poetic, with paragraphs and paragraphs of description.

Underlying Kweku’s character is interplay between, gender, race and class. He leaves his family because he has “failed” them as a father and husband who is supposed to be a provider and bring respect and status to the family. His own self-respect is very much tied to his success as a doctor. Leaving his country of birth, against his mother’s will, was about greener pastures in the US and ultimately coming back as a ‘’success”.