cover image The God Child

The God Child

Nana Oforiatta Ayim. Bloomsbury, $26 (256p) ISBN 978-1-408-88242-9

Ayim’s promising but uneven debut follows Ghanian expatriate Maya through her childhood and young adulthood in stultifying German society. Growing up in Germany and the U.K. during the 1970s and ’80s, with sporadic visits to Ghana, Maya is brought up in a wealthy, educated home and is fluent in both English and German. However, she is considered a foreigner in both European and Ghanian society and in the communities where she lives and attends school. After Maya’s father leaves the family when she’s in grade school, Maya’s beautiful and gregarious mother takes over the task of raising Maya and her cousin, Kojo, and tells them stories of their illustrious royal ancestors. While Maya is obedient, strives to fit in, and tries to ignore her peers’ racist remarks, Kojo’s impulsiveness makes him a target of bullies at school (and even at home). The narrative culminates in a visit to Ghana, where an adult Maya witnesses Kojo’s anguished struggle to establish a museum in Accra that he hopes will restore their family’s dynastic cultural lineage. While Ayim perceptively digs into the fragmented nature of family, colonialism, and transnational identity, these threads never combine to form a cohesive whole. Despite electric prose, sharp cultural allusions, and a charismatic protagonist, Ayim’s premise remains frustratingly ambiguous. (Mar.)