The Death of Vivek Oji
by Akwaeke Emezi
Adult Fiction, LGBTQ
One afternoon, in a town in southeastern Nigeria, a mother opens her front door to discover her son’s body, wrapped in colorful fabric, at her feet. What follows is the tumultuous, heart-wrenching story of one family’s struggle to understand a child whose spirit is both gentle and mysterious. Raised by a distant father and an understanding but overprotective mother, Vivek suffers disorienting blackouts, moments of disconnection between self and surroundings. As adolescence gives way to adulthood, Vivek finds solace in friendships with the warm, boisterous daughters of the Nigerwives, foreign-born women married to Nigerian men. But Vivek’s closest bond is with Osita, the worldly, high-spirited cousin whose teasing confidence masks a guarded private life. As their relationship deepens—and Osita struggles to understand Vivek’s escalating crisis—the mystery gives way to a heart-stopping act of violence in a moment of exhilarating freedom.
Propulsively readable, teeming with unforgettable characters, The Death of Vivek Oji is a novel of family and friendship that challenges expectations—a dramatic story of loss and transcendence that will move every reader.
I have to start this off simply by saying I am in such an obnoxious book hangover after this book and I hate how I much I absolutely adored it. Just kidding – I’m so bloody glad that I had the honour of reading this, because that’s what it genuinely felt like.
The Death of Vivek Oji is the equally gorgeous and heartbreaking story of the title character and the aftermath fo what happens when his dead body is left on his family’s doorstep. It is told through different perspectives and also different points in the history of the characters, and Emezi does an absolute effortless job of weaving them all together without getting lost or confused.
After reading Pet earlier this year and not loving it as much as everyone else, I really wanted this novel to be the redemption for Akwaeke Emezi – and my God, it absolutely was. The characterisation in this novel was absolutely sublime. It has genuinely been so long since I’ve cared so much for characters like Vivek and Osita and indeed, Kavita too. Emezi is also an absolute master of the slow-building pace, every word seems so deliberate and perfect on the page. I also adored the poignancy and emotion of this story, it was so tender and honest. It felt like reading a story I shouldn’t have been allowed to, almost as if the characters themselves existed in real life and I was spying on a private conversation. That’s how genuine this book felt to me.
It definitely deals with taboo topics and ones I usually wouldn’t think I’d like, but Emezi tackles it so beautifully and effortlessly that I couldn’t help but be in awe. I also loved the exploration of sexuality and gender, this was such a timely read and such an important one too.
If you haven’t read this yet, I really couldn’t recommend this enough. I’d say this is for fans of The Song of Achilles, with beautiful prose and sublime storytelling. I am certain I am going to remember this book for the rest of my life.