The Death of Vivek Oji #BookReview

Akwaeke Emezi | August 2020 |256 pp

Vivek Oji is a young man with feminine (maybe androgynous?) looks growing up in a Nigerian village with his parents and close circle of friends. We learn early on that Vivek’s dead body is wrapped and left at his parents doorstep. You’ll have to read the story and meet the characters to understand how or why. Your assumption is wrong. 😜

I would say this is definitely a character driven book. The book pushes forward as we learn about each character and their relationship with Vivek. Vivek’s mom, who chooses to ignore his feminine looks and ways, opting for ‘his sensitive’ or sick. Vivek’s dad, who placates his wife and uses an affair to distract him from the troubles in his home. Vivek’s cousin who has a crush on him and at once understands and is horrified by Vivek’s choices. And Vivek’s close female friends that make a ‘safe-space’ for him in their home and in their clothes, unbeknownst to most folks around them.

Pros: The story is beautifully written and creates a type of intimacy that surprised me. There is something interesting about watching people reconcile a hard truth in real time. I think this is the case with Vivek, his sexuality and his friends and family. An added bonus is Vivek narrates some of the story sharing insight from his grave.

Cons: Though beautifully written, I think the author tried too hard to make Vivek himself beautiful. Im not sure he is actually a person I would have liked. In an incident early on when he forced himself into a sexual encounter between his cousin and a girl, I judged him as self absorbed, oblivious, and cruel. The fainting spell did not absolve him of it, for me.

Slowly, the story becomes less about Vivek and more about the relationships of his family and close friends. Their affairs and motives for being with one another. If Vivek felt unseen or misunderstood in life, after his death, viewing his people, we understand some of that is because they were caught up in their own shit.

Isn’t that the truth in real life? We think folks are focused on what we’re doing but actually they don’t care?

Overall an excellent, diverse read for June. Goodbook 11/2021

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