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The title of this book, The Death of Vivek Oji, is a misnomer, because this book is all about the life of Vivek Oji and the impact he has on the people he left behind.
What does it mean for a family to lose a child they never really knew?
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.
The book starts with Vivek’s death but slowly, page by page, through the vignettes offered by his grieving friends and family, we are shown the life he lived.
Akwaeke Emezi simple yet profound prose pulls you into the world of Vivek as soon as you start the book. The narration by Chukwudi Iwuji and Yetide Badaki is so masterful that you can immediately visualise each character in your mind. Emezi succeeds in keeping our focus on the life of Vivek while slowly building up the dread, creeping higher and higher as you get closer to knowing the how and the why of his death. The bewildering grief of Kavita, Vivek’s mother and the heartbreaking despair of Osita, his cousin was perfectly captured in both Emezi’s writing and the brilliant narration.
But what made this book an absolute favourite was of course, Vivek. He was tender, fragile, precious yet also fierce. The constant cultural and religious restraints he has to fight through to discover and embrace his self, his burgeoning need to break out of the mould society wants to fit him into , bleeds through each line of Emezi’s evocative yet transparent prose. I wish there was just a bit more of Vivek’s PoVs but that’s my only complaint.
“𝘛𝘩𝘦𝘺 𝘣𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘭𝘺 𝘶𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘰𝘥 𝘩𝘪𝘮 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘮𝘴𝘦𝘭𝘷𝘦𝘴, 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘺 𝘭𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘥 𝘩𝘪𝘮, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘩𝘢𝘥 𝘣𝘦𝘦𝘯 𝘦𝘯𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩.”
I also loved how Emezi addresses the concepts of family, love, sex and friendships. The bond between Vivek and his friends and how they all create a safe space for him to discover and explore himself was beautiful 🥺
The death of Vivek Oji, is a bittersweet coming of age story that leaves you with tender hope and lasting ache in your heart. I highly highly recommend!