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Named one of the year’s most anticipated books by The New York Times, Harper’s Bazaar, BuzzFeed, and more 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 sto Named one of the year’s most anticipated books by The New York Times, Harper’s Bazaar, BuzzFeed, and more 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.


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Named one of the year’s most anticipated books by The New York Times, Harper’s Bazaar, BuzzFeed, and more 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 sto Named one of the year’s most anticipated books by The New York Times, Harper’s Bazaar, BuzzFeed, and more 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.

30 review for The Death of Vivek Oji

  1. 5 out of 5

    The Artisan Geek

    ------------------ BOOK REVIEW ----------------- 2/8/20 My video review is up on my YouTube channel :) ------------------READING VLOG----------------- 3/2/20 Stayed up till 4:30 AM to finish this beauty and have been crying for a good half an hour over it. What a joy it is to know that people such as Emezi are in this world. I know how it is often said that books transform you, but I've never had that feeling as strongly as I had with this book. Not only is their prose phenomenal, but Emezi has an ex ------------------ BOOK REVIEW ----------------- 2/8/20 My video review is up on my YouTube channel :) ------------------READING VLOG----------------- 3/2/20 Stayed up till 4:30 AM to finish this beauty and have been crying for a good half an hour over it. What a joy it is to know that people such as Emezi are in this world. I know how it is often said that books transform you, but I've never had that feeling as strongly as I had with this book. Not only is their prose phenomenal, but Emezi has an excellent command of the narrative, adding just the right amount of prose secondary to the main storyline to paint an even more vivid picture. As the title states, this book is about The Death of Vivek Oji, but it is also (perhaps even more so) about Vivek's life and the people around them. Many of the main characters are coming of age and are feeling the restrictions that society thrusts upon all of us. One of the many reasons as to why I cherish this book is that it shows people doors to possibilities, they might not have even thought existed - and if that's not a hell of an achievement, I don't know what else is. READ THIS BOOK WHEN IT COMES OUT. 1/2/20 The time has come!! My ARC came in the mail this week and I couldn't have had a better start to Black history Month with this book! #Blessed 27/12/19 Oh my gosh, I can't believe I will be getting a copy in a couple of weeks!!! BRUH, once I have this in my hands, I'm going to inhale that story in one go and 14/12/19 I am simply OBSESSED with Akwaeke, I need this in my life right now!! I can't wait!! 15/9/19 I am here for it!! I'm currently reading Pet and it's such an amazing story, can't wait to read more of Emezi's work :) You can find me on Youtube | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Website

  2. 5 out of 5

    Gabby

    This book made me bawl my eyes out 😭 it was so good and so sad and so damn beautiful. Easy 5/5 for me. It reminded me quite a bit of A Little Life in a way, with the gorgeous thought provoking writing and similar themes. It takes place in a town in southeastern Nigeria, and the story opens when Vivek’s mother opens the door and discovers her sons body wrapped in a colorful fabric. This is an incredibly moving story about friendship and family and identity and I just want to give Vivek the bigges This book made me bawl my eyes out 😭 it was so good and so sad and so damn beautiful. Easy 5/5 for me. It reminded me quite a bit of A Little Life in a way, with the gorgeous thought provoking writing and similar themes. It takes place in a town in southeastern Nigeria, and the story opens when Vivek’s mother opens the door and discovers her sons body wrapped in a colorful fabric. This is an incredibly moving story about friendship and family and identity and I just want to give Vivek the biggest hug. I read this physically while listening to the audiobook on librofm and I HIGHLY recommend the audiobook. There are multiple narrators on the audiobook and it’s such a great experience, the voice actors really bring this story to life. I just can’t get over the ending 😭🥺 I haven’t cried like this over a book in some time.

  3. 4 out of 5

    karen

    NOW AVAILABLE!! Freshwater was a very stylized bit of emotional brutality whose jaggedy flow i loved but totally understand why other readers might not. this one, though—this is how you win book awards, court book clubs, AND make your goddamned name. this is an undeniable stunner. you’ve read the title of this book, so i don’t need to worry that i will spoil anything by saying that this is about...the death of vivek oji, in both the literal and figurative senses. but it is NOT 248 pages of him ga NOW AVAILABLE!! Freshwater was a very stylized bit of emotional brutality whose jaggedy flow i loved but totally understand why other readers might not. this one, though—this is how you win book awards, court book clubs, AND make your goddamned name. this is an undeniable stunner. you’ve read the title of this book, so i don’t need to worry that i will spoil anything by saying that this is about...the death of vivek oji, in both the literal and figurative senses. but it is NOT 248 pages of him gasping out his last breaths while his skin cools and his heart stops—his death; the how and why of that single moment, is not the primary focus, it's more like the maypole around which the colorful narrative strands of vivek's before-and-after are wrapped: the details of his short life and what losing him does to those he leaves behind. like your own death, you never forget his is there, looming, but it's only the anchor; the backbone holding all the storymeat in place. it’s very confident and unhurried in its storytelling; nonlinear without being confusing, full of empathy and tenderness, beautifully written and accessible, with some of the most relatable depictions of grief i've ever read. It was impossible not to miss him when I was with her; it was as if someone had driven a shovel into my chest, then levered it out again, taking up all it could hold, leaving a screaming mess behind. it's a departure from the broken-glass tone and structure of Freshwater but shares its themes of sexual and gender identity, and the idea of permeable borders between bodily states, life and death, etc. however, it is much more straightforward than their debut; a coming-of-age type of story about friendship, family, first love, courage and conviction. like Freshwater, there's an emphasis on otherness, but here cast in a much more positive light—whereas Freshwater was all about alienation and isolation, here we have the the nigerwives: a group of foreign-born women married to nigerian men and raising their children in a country not their own. these women turn their otherness into a bond—building a community out of what sets them apart and providing an extended, chosen family for their children. these children of the nigerwives—vivek and his friends—were so charmingly written, their relationships sweet and light and fiercely loyal. it's a bit like seanan mcguire's wayward children series sans magic—these mixed-race, sexually spectrummy, supportive oddball kinds of kids, most especially twin sisters olunne and somto reminding me of sumi and her confection-ate ways: Somto swiped a fingerful of icing from another and licked it. "You don't have to eat the whole thing," she said. "She still hasn't learned how to put a normal amount of sugar in them." I put the cupcake down and shook my head. "I can feel my teeth rotting already." Olunne leaned over and picked the sugar dragonfly off the cupcake, popping it into her mouth. That was how we found each other again, in a blocked-off room filled with yellowing light: two bubblegum fairies there to drag me out of my cave, carrying oversweet wands. I don't know how deep I would have sunk if not for them. I wish I'd told them more often how much that mattered to me. the novel alternates between first-person POVs of vivek and his cousin osita with third-person om-narr chapters weaving between them, and emezi balances the different voices and timelines well, building tension by doling out hints and foreshadowing without letting it clutter up the narrative flow. it's such smooth, accomplished storytelling, all tender hopes and palpable griefs, and i am so ready for more from them. come to my blog!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Angela M

    3+ stars. One of the strengths of this novel is the writing, really beautiful prose and images. “If this story was a stack of photographs- the old kind, rounded at the corners and kept in albums under the glass and lace doilies of center tables in parlors across the country ...” I was struck by the recurrence of photographs, both imagined as above and the actual ones reflected in Vivek’s funeral program “ The program was full of pictures of Vivek as a small boy, a baby; nine of them looked like 3+ stars. One of the strengths of this novel is the writing, really beautiful prose and images. “If this story was a stack of photographs- the old kind, rounded at the corners and kept in albums under the glass and lace doilies of center tables in parlors across the country ...” I was struck by the recurrence of photographs, both imagined as above and the actual ones reflected in Vivek’s funeral program “ The program was full of pictures of Vivek as a small boy, a baby; nine of them looked like him now. It was as if whoever had selected the pictures had decided to end the timeline ...that they wanted to pretend he was someone else.” And at the end, actual photographs, so affecting, so revealing. While this story is about the death of a young man, not a spoiler as it is obviously reflected in the title and with a one sentence first chapter. It became more than just his story and therein lies the weakness for me - just too many relationships thrown into a novel that is not very long and at times, these relationships felt like add ons. For me that diluted in a way Vivek’s heartbreaking story . I wanted more of Vivek through his own self reflection “So: If nobody sees you, are you still there?” I wanted more from Vivek’s perspective, not just how he was seen by others. The author does a wonderful job of portraying all of their grief - his cousin Osita, bound to Vivek by so much more than blood, but none more than Vivek’s mother Kavita. This is a story about identity, Nigeria in the 1990’s, about the beauty of acceptance, sadly coming too late. Mixed feelings so it is right down the middle for me with 3+ stars. The + for the writing. (Warning for those who may have an issue, there are some graphic sex scenes.) I read this with Diane and Esil, my monthly book buddies.

  5. 4 out of 5

    s.penkevich

    ‘It was the clearest terror and pleasure I had ever known.’ Have you ever wondered what it felt like finishing a novel before it was dubbed a “Classic?” Upon turning the final page in Akwaeke Emezi’s The Death of Vivek Oji I had the feeling I was finishing something that deserves to be important for a long time and could likely be a modern Classic. The follow up to their incredibly imaginative and important 2018 novel Freshwater--which set such a high bar I didn’t think possible to clear--and the ‘It was the clearest terror and pleasure I had ever known.’ Have you ever wondered what it felt like finishing a novel before it was dubbed a “Classic?” Upon turning the final page in Akwaeke Emezi’s The Death of Vivek Oji I had the feeling I was finishing something that deserves to be important for a long time and could likely be a modern Classic. The follow up to their incredibly imaginative and important 2018 novel Freshwater--which set such a high bar I didn’t think possible to clear--and the wonderful 2019 YA novel Pet, Emezi returns with a bittersweet and powerfully moving story set in their home of Nigeria and follows the lives of characters who, for a variety of reasons, don’t quite fit in. Central to these lives is Vivek, whose death casts a long shadow over the novel as Emezi deftly weaves past and a post-death present to expertly tease tension and narrative reveals to absolute perfection. With most of the story taking place in 1998 surrounding the death of dictator Sani Abacha Emezi entwines Nigerian social issues with their characters awakenings of identity in a novel so moving, so exquisitely crafted it deserves to become a modern Classic. ‘Osita wished, much later, that he'd told Vivek the truth then, that he was so beautiful he made the air around him dull.’ Akwaeke Emezi has an undeniable gift for prose and storytelling. Their language is so fluid and remarkable, like the best of poetry, and is endlessly inviting. This is a book that can be dissected and give way to voluminous discourse while still being accessible and understood by any reader, a trait the most lauded of popular American classics tend to share. This is a book that is difficult to set down once opened and one that is brave and bold by pointedly addressing exactly what it sets out to say in the most beautiful ways possible. The story rotates between a third-person narrative to first person chapters from the perspective of Vivek and the cousin Osita, while also moving back and forth across the timeline. Emezi has a finely tuned instrument of storytelling here, moving the narrative like a champion chess player positions their pieces on a board to construct the perfect checkmate. Vivek’s death is not a spoiler, it is on the cover and is mentioned in the opening line of the novel, but the picture of it is incomplete and slowly washes into view towards a total completion by the end of the novel. This is a very visual and visceral novel and it would be no surprise if readers recall moments more like a scene from a film than words on a page. The second chapter begins with the line ‘If this story was a stack of photographs,’ establishing the visual sense that will permeate this novel, as well as foreshadowing the importance of photographs that will become a crux in the narrative. Photographs, it would seem, are the Chekov’s gun of this story. Returning to the language and perfect prose for a moment, it should be noted that this is not an American novel, nor is it meant to be. Emezi retains a strong inclusion of Igbo culture through the words and syntax in the character's speech. Without hindering understanding, this reminds readers that they are observers, this is for them to watch and appreciate but as an outsider. This is a good thing, and it really works here. There are obvious parallels that can be connected and a surging empathy to these characters, but the distance reminds the reader that they can accept/embrace/support others as separate from themselves and stand in unity without being part of it. It builds empathy by caring about something outside of yourself and not colonizing every narrative to be about you, while still giving all the fulfilling experiences a reader has when finding themselves in a novel. I found this to be one of the aspects I respected most in this novel, the way it created a space for itself and established healthy boundaries for it while still welcoming the reader in. ‘“You’re safe,” he murmured. “It’s just me. It’s just you and me.”’ I predict this will be a staple of book clubs for years to come, particularly as it highlights very urgent and important themes of sexuality, gender identity and the way resistance to progress is exponentially harmful. Here in the United States, the murder of trans folk is a major issue, and 91% of those murdered are Black trans women. This is the sort of violence normalized in society that the books speaks against. The main story is inseparable from the historical and context in which it is set, which reveals a lot through their juxtaposition. Set in 1998, Vivek is brought home from University for unmentioned reasons--likely related to a perceived mental health issue--on the day that Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha died. ‘It’s a new day for Nigeria,’ Chika, Vivek’s father says, ‘A new day...for all of us.’ There is a striking parallel between Vivek’s feeling of freedom to embody their identity that grows with the acceptance of close friends and the hopes for freedom as Nigeria would hold their first democratic election after 16 years of military dictatorship. In the peripheries of the novel are social issues, such as violence against gay of ‘non-masculine’ men, riots occuring in the marketplace, and--as examined by a brief dispute between two side-characters--a tension between Nigerian Christians and Muslims, particularly over a fear of Muslim refugees that have settled in the North. The political landscape becomes a minefield for Emezi’s characters to navigate as they embrace who they are in an ever changing world. The characters are all part of a community family unit, the children of the Nigerwives: women from outside Nigeria who have married Nigerian men. Vivek’s own mother is from India, for example. Girls who are not fully Nigerian are made to cut their hair short in primary school, and hair and hair length becomes a critical motif in this novel, particularly for Vivek who has grown their hair down to their waist. Emezi depicts a strong, obdurate patriarchal society where men openly have affairs or have a second family in hopes of having a male heir. Amidst these conditions, the youth are growing into their own and adopting far more inclusive and progressive lifestyles than their parents. There is a stark contrast between the outdated beliefs of the parents that view any perceived aberration as a sign of failing mental health--or demonic possession as evinced by a particularly horrific moment when Vivek’s aunt brings him to church to have him physically assaulted by the preacher in order to ‘drive the demon’s out of him’--and the youth who are far more accepting. Vivek is immediately embraced by the girls he grew up with in childhood and stays in their homes because his own family cannot accept his identity. They were girlfriends, yes, but who could they even go and say that to? And if you didn’t tell other people, was it real or was it just something the two of you were telling yourselves? The youth reject the established norm of heterosexuality as the only option and are quick to embrace fluidity of pronouns. They see the way their parents way of thinking is not only erasing their identities, but also causing them grief and existential pain. If they cannot be accepted and would be cast aside like trash, be it for their sexuality or simply for being a daughter in a patriarchy that emphasizes value on sons, how can they come to terms with themselves and exist? ‘You’re keeping me in a cage,’ Vivek shouts at their father, an outcry specific to being kept indoors lest they bring shame upon the family but also a cry for their entire generation restricted by outdated principals. Despite the violence and sadness that overtakes the narrative in an impending death you know if coming, there is hope in the youth for a brighter, more humane future. The Death of Vivek Oji is a marvelous achievement and one that, along with their astonishingly good first novel Freshwater, should make Emezi a widespread name. For a novel coming in just under 250 pages, this delivers an intricately plotted and nuanced story with a depth that will keep your mind abuzz long after you finish. It has all the hallmarks of greatness that deserves to keep it circulating for many years to come and an intoxicating bittersweetness that will keep it in your heart just as long. 5/5

  6. 5 out of 5

    Larry H

    The Death of Vivek Oji , Akwaeke Emeze's newest novel, is easily one of the best, most powerful books I’ve read all year. One day in Nigeria a woman finds the body of her son, Vivek, on the porch of their house, wrapped in colorful fabric. It appears he has been beaten to death. Vivek’s parents are grief-stricken, but while his father accepts that these things might happen in a country torn by violence, his mother is desperate to understand what happened to her son. She saw him that morning and The Death of Vivek Oji , Akwaeke Emeze's newest novel, is easily one of the best, most powerful books I’ve read all year. One day in Nigeria a woman finds the body of her son, Vivek, on the porch of their house, wrapped in colorful fabric. It appears he has been beaten to death. Vivek’s parents are grief-stricken, but while his father accepts that these things might happen in a country torn by violence, his mother is desperate to understand what happened to her son. She saw him that morning and craves to understand the events that followed. Vivek was a gentle soul, a free spirit who felt chained by a world that sought to define him. He only felt comfortable letting his guard down with his friends, the daughters of the Nigerwives, a group of foreign-born women married to Nigerian men. And he was closest to Osita, his cousin, who found himself inexplicably drawn to Vivek. This is a gorgeously written story of identity, sexuality, love, grief, friendship, and the need to live the life you want, even in a country where doing so might be deadly. It’s also a story of a mother desperate to understand her child. I haven’t read Akwaeke Emeze’s other books yet, Freshwater and Pet , but I definitely will now. This was emotional, beautiful, and so poignant, and their storytelling took my breath away. I won’t forget this one anytime soon. Check out my list of the best books I read in 2019 at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2020/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2019.html. Check out my list of the best books of the decade at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2020/01/my-favorite-books-of-decade.html. See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com. Follow me on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/the.bookishworld.of.yrralh/.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    4 stars for a coming of age story in present day Nigeria. Vivek Oji is a young man whose body is discovered by his mother one day at her doorstep. His body has been wrapped in fabric. The story of his life is told in flashbacks, from 2 different points of view: Vivek and Osita. Osita is his cousin and best friend. They grow up together and are like brothers. However, Vivek is subject to spells(possibly epilepsy) and enters Osita's room when Osita and his girlfriend are intimate. Osita loses his 4 stars for a coming of age story in present day Nigeria. Vivek Oji is a young man whose body is discovered by his mother one day at her doorstep. His body has been wrapped in fabric. The story of his life is told in flashbacks, from 2 different points of view: Vivek and Osita. Osita is his cousin and best friend. They grow up together and are like brothers. However, Vivek is subject to spells(possibly epilepsy) and enters Osita's room when Osita and his girlfriend are intimate. Osita loses his girlfriend and blames Vivek. Vivek realizes that he is not comfortable as a man in Nigerian society. Gay people are looked down upon in Nigeria, subject to Christian "conversion" which means exorcism and beating a victim to rid him of the devil. Also, sometimes gay people are attacked and killed. Vivek's mother Kavita is desperate to find out what happened to her son. Vivek's father, Chika, is distant and has an affair. The ending is somewhat of a surprise. There are excellent descriptions of Nigerian society--food, spirituality, customs and people. Some quotes: Chika thinking about a connection between Vivek and Chika's mother: "How else could that scar have entered the world on flesh if it had not left in the first place? But still, he denied this for many years, for as long as he could. Superstition, he said. It was a coincidence, the marks on their feet--and besides, Vivek was a boy and not a girl, so how can? Still. His mother was dead and their family was bereft, and in the middle of it all was a new baby." Plants: "There was a cluster of bitterleaf bushes in front of the boys' quarters, fighting with an ixora hedge for space." Vivek's book: "I kept the book for the title, for how it was spelled. Beautyful. I had no idea why that spelling was chosen, but I liked it because it kept the beauty intact. It wasn't swallowed, killed off with an i to make a whole;e new word." Thanks to Penguin Group Riverhead for sending me this eARC through NetGalley.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    No spoilers... If I had read this book earlier...I might have written a - more descriptive review....[they have been done]. There is no reason to re-invent the wheel - when it doesn’t need reinventing. So, at this point - I can only add my agreement to all the five star reviews. Many previous readers took the words right out of my mouth: ....Brilliant-beautiful- devastating-heart wrenching- powerful - exceptional..... ....One of the best books this year...by an extraordinary talented author. ....One No spoilers... If I had read this book earlier...I might have written a - more descriptive review....[they have been done]. There is no reason to re-invent the wheel - when it doesn’t need reinventing. So, at this point - I can only add my agreement to all the five star reviews. Many previous readers took the words right out of my mouth: ....Brilliant-beautiful- devastating-heart wrenching- powerful - exceptional..... ....One of the best books this year...by an extraordinary talented author. ....One of the best written books I’ve read about coming-of-age-identity & sexuality....( including abuse, adultery, incest, and bigamy); ....One of the most powerfully written books about losing a child; brutally murdered....[ as a mother myself...I ached/still ache the thought]... I’d like to believe that all parents who lose a child- recover - not sure if it’s possible - ( I’m personally friends with six woman who lost a child)....but I do believe it’s possible for mothers & fathers to compartmentalize ( have the grief, memories, sadness) - while ‘also’ enjoy their lives - filled with love, friendships, passions, hobbies, a full array of joys. This is the 3rd book I’ve read from Akwaeke Emezi. I had one of the most ‘out-of-body’ experiences with Akwaeke’s debut ‘Freshwater’ ....that I had ever had from ‘any’ book. I’ll never forget it. I can’t resist quoting what an NPR reviewer wrote about the comparisons between ‘Freshwater’ and ‘The Death of Vivek Oji’. I soooooo agree. The expression fits my experience so profoundly: ‘Freshwater’ is a tough book to look up from. So is ‘The Death of Vivek Oji’ — but for completely different reasons. The two novels are strikingly dissimilar. Where ‘Freshwater’ is headlong, ‘Vivek Oji’ is restrained. Where ‘Freshwater’ roams between countries and regions, ‘Vivek Oji’ remains firmly planted in southern Nigeria. Where ‘Freshwater’ refuses traditional storytelling, ‘Vivek Oji’ adopts the form—though never the spirit— of traditional crime fiction, seeming to glory in the genre’s conventions before slyly subverting them”. Vivek suffered .... can’t deny it....( both literally and figuratively: physically and emotionally). The reader acclimates/desensitizes to the ‘death’ of Vivek....( he dies at the start of this book).....and engages with the entire unfolding of his life .... As we learn more about Vivek’s tangled happiness....a mood or a moment...the image of him is quite pleasurable. And the closer I got to the end of the book - the slower I read.... I just didn’t want it to end....and I loved Vivek wholeheartedly.....(as his family and friends did). Akwaeke Emezi’s writing is vivid, and experiential. The voices from each of her characters are ruthlessly powerful. Another fantastic achievement from Akwaeke ( love her name).... One of my favorite female authors!!! Each of her books are wonderfully fresh. 5 strong stars from me....

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nilufer Ozmekik

    After being mesmerized by each chapter of Freshwater, I dived into the opportunity to read another brilliant work of the author! Reading this book made me feel like purchasing a ticket to a photography exhibition and as soon as I took my first step to the gallery, I got flabbergasted by the detailed, meticulous, realistic portraits exhibit the cultural mosaic, traditions, daily lives of people’s lives from Nigeria. It criticizes harsh intolerance and questions sexual identity exploration and self After being mesmerized by each chapter of Freshwater, I dived into the opportunity to read another brilliant work of the author! Reading this book made me feel like purchasing a ticket to a photography exhibition and as soon as I took my first step to the gallery, I got flabbergasted by the detailed, meticulous, realistic portraits exhibit the cultural mosaic, traditions, daily lives of people’s lives from Nigeria. It criticizes harsh intolerance and questions sexual identity exploration and self identity crisis. So many delicate, sensitive issues harmonized with different people’s stories. The writing is extraordinarily beautiful, poetic. The author knows how to create visionary art to broaden our horizons but.... Yes this would be one of my favorite reads if there weren’t some issues bothered me a lot. First of all: mystery part of Vivek’s death didn’t work with me! It’s already tragic, heart wrenching and real tear jerking story. So it doesn’t need any additional murder mystery premise. Vivek’s death shakes you hard and as you keep reading his life from the perspectives of loved ones, only thing you can deeply feel sadness and pain.You can sense the oozing grief at each chapter that truly breaks your heart. And the other thing that didn’t quite fit my expectations was multiple POVed story telling. Instead of listening Vivek’s life by himself, we’re learning the facts about his life via friends, family members, lovers. Maybe we may read more genuine and honest portrait of his life with lesser POVs. Overall: the beautiful writing, honest approach to the extreme intolerance of community and well developed portraits, poignant story of Vivek are the strengths of the novel. I loved the author’s previous works more but I still mostly enjoyed this book and rounding up my 3.5 stars to 4! Special thanks to NetGalley and Riverhead Books for sharing this emotional arc with me in exchange my honest thoughts.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    I wasn't immediately drawn into the novel, didn't feel like I really liked the character of Vivek. The writing was terrific though and I did like the setting of Nigeria. I kept reading and soon was immersed in a complicated storyline, Vivek was a complicated character. Nigerian culture left little room for those who were different. What happens though, to those who no longer want to pretend to be something they are not? That is the story, a story we know from the beginning has a tragic end. A str I wasn't immediately drawn into the novel, didn't feel like I really liked the character of Vivek. The writing was terrific though and I did like the setting of Nigeria. I kept reading and soon was immersed in a complicated storyline, Vivek was a complicated character. Nigerian culture left little room for those who were different. What happens though, to those who no longer want to pretend to be something they are not? That is the story, a story we know from the beginning has a tragic end. A struggle for young people whose repressed culture, family honor, leaves little room for those whose sexual identities were not the norm. I can see what the author meant her message to mean, but this was another case for sometimes less is more. There were a few characters who had bit parts in the novel, and I couldn't discern why they were even mentioned. Overkill on the many different ways sexual identity can be expressed. The last third of the book was my favorite. We find out how and why. We also see the strength of a mother's love. Intense sexual situations. A read with Angela and Esil and once again we were in sync. Quite a bit of discussion was drawn from this one. ARC from Edelweiss.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Marchpane

    The Death of Vivek Oji tells a compelling story of identity, belonging and grief. As a cultural portrait of Nigeria—in all its complexity, contrasts and frictions, it is particularly good. In that respect, this novel covers a surprising amount of ground, darting from city to small town to rural village, taking in a range of cultural and religious traditions, small details of daily life and larger ones of conflict and intolerance. The titular Vivek’s mother is Indian, and her social circle consis The Death of Vivek Oji tells a compelling story of identity, belonging and grief. As a cultural portrait of Nigeria—in all its complexity, contrasts and frictions, it is particularly good. In that respect, this novel covers a surprising amount of ground, darting from city to small town to rural village, taking in a range of cultural and religious traditions, small details of daily life and larger ones of conflict and intolerance. The titular Vivek’s mother is Indian, and her social circle consists almost entirely of foreign women—from Thailand, the Philippines, the UK, the USA etc—who have married Nigerian men. The women’s children are thus thrown together and (eventually) forge a diverse group of friends, bonded by their outsiderdom. In the foreground are personal issues of gender identity and sexuality. Here, the novel’s structure undercuts some of its emotional power. The story of Vivek’s death, and tragically short life, is told from the perspective of those left behind—family, friends, lovers—but this limits how much we hear directly from Vivek, who is by far the most vibrant and interesting character. Emezi also contorts the narrative to make the manner of Vivek’s death a mystery until the very end, which I felt was unnecessary and distracting—a suspense-building contrivance. Emezi’s 2018 debut, Freshwater was as bracing and vital as its name. By comparison, The Death of Vivek Oji almost seems like the work of a different author. More conventional and accessible, it doesn’t quite manage to live up to its predecessor. One book does not a ‘trademark style’ make, but this follow-up lacks the flair and inventiveness that won Emezi so many ardent fans, and even the prose seems less polished. On the other hand, readers who found Freshwater confounding or overwrought may actually prefer this novel’s directness.

  12. 4 out of 5

    — Massiel

    Y'all please take a moment of your life and read this book. P.S. I would sell my kidney and all my organs if Akwaeke decides to write a memoir book. Buddy read with Adriana✨ Y'all please take a moment of your life and read this book. P.S. I would sell my kidney and all my organs if Akwaeke decides to write a memoir book. Buddy read with Adriana✨

  13. 4 out of 5

    Meike

    With their new book, Emezi has written an emotional drama, a work of social criticism, and a very effective suspense novel that revolves around an actual death, but also around another mystery: The dynamic of human relationships, in all their flawed glory. Growing up in Aba, Vivek Oji is the beloved son of a Nigerian father and an immigrant mother from India, and as we learn from both the title of the book and the first sentence, the young man dies - but how and why? This question drives the nar With their new book, Emezi has written an emotional drama, a work of social criticism, and a very effective suspense novel that revolves around an actual death, but also around another mystery: The dynamic of human relationships, in all their flawed glory. Growing up in Aba, Vivek Oji is the beloved son of a Nigerian father and an immigrant mother from India, and as we learn from both the title of the book and the first sentence, the young man dies - but how and why? This question drives the narrative, and the author does a fantastic job keeping readers on the edge of their seats. Told in alternating chapters by an omniscient narrator, Vivek's cousin Osita and Vivek himself, we learn that Vivek was born wih a mark on his foot that looks exactly like the scar of his grandmother who died the day he came into the world. Also, he is tormented by an enigmatic "illness" which drives him into a deep depression - as it turns out, Vivek is queer and gendervariant and doesn't know how to live his truth (I'm not using "they" as a pronoun at this point - the book will tell you why!). Also, Vivek feels a strong, mystical connection to his deceased grandmother. Emezi shows how the people around him struggle with Vivek's timid attempts to show and speak himself, including his feminine side. The novel shines when the author writes about the complicated relationships between friends and family, their love, their friendship and their sexual relationships, straight and queer. These characterizations and dynamics are extremely well drawn and render the novel more accessible than the more abstract Freshwater - the people we encounter frequently have strong emotional plasticity and experience both failure and growth, which makes it exciting to follow their journeys. The concept of "otherness" is also explored in the form of the Nigerwives, foreign women who are married to Nigerian men. Quite a few of them feature in the text and their stories illustrate the challenges they are facing in their roles as immigrant wives. The author themselves was not only raised in Aba, they are also half-Tamil, a "half-caste" (which is the term used in the novel), like Vivek and many of his friends. Another group that is othered and thus excluded are the Northerners who have different clothes and customs than the people living in the South of the country where Aba is located - Emezi is especially hinting at the conflicts between Hausa and Igbo. In this context, Emezi shows the barbarity of "necklacing", a lynching method where a petrol-filled rubber tyre is put around a victim and set on fire, and in another instance, they describe the practice of religious exorcisms, which seems to be a problem in Nigeria. This is a great novel, both full of heart and a real pageturner. "Why are you so afraid? Because something is different from what you know?", Vivek asks at one point - but there are some people who know what he needs: 'They barely understood him themselves, but they loved him, and that had been enough." Vivek hides things in The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, hinting at the possibility of a brighter future for gendervariant people - I need to read that now, just as the two books Emezi cites as their inspiration, Toni Morrison's Love and Gabriel García Márquez' Chronicle of a Death Foretold.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    Loved the representation and overall messages within The Death of Vivek Oji. We learn at the beginning of the novel that Vivek has died, so the rest of the book details both what led to Vivek’s death and the aftermath. The two characters who elicited the most emotion for me included Osita, Vivek’s high-spirited yet reserved cousin, and Kavita, Vivek’s overprotective yet ultimately understanding mother. By the end of The Death of Vivek Oji, we witness the effects of family secrets and how non-acc Loved the representation and overall messages within The Death of Vivek Oji. We learn at the beginning of the novel that Vivek has died, so the rest of the book details both what led to Vivek’s death and the aftermath. The two characters who elicited the most emotion for me included Osita, Vivek’s high-spirited yet reserved cousin, and Kavita, Vivek’s overprotective yet ultimately understanding mother. By the end of The Death of Vivek Oji, we witness the effects of family secrets and how non-acceptance of people who differ from us – even when that difference does nothing to damage ourselves or society – may hurt those we love the most. I really appreciated this novel’s setting in south-Eastern Nigeria and the lgbtq themes throughout. Akwaeke Emezi does a fantastic job of establishing the sense of community, both the values of the different families in this Nigerian town and the interpersonal dynamics such as gossip about other families’ personal business. I can’t get too into the lgbtq themes without spoiling the novel, though I will say the most heart-wrenching scenes for me included the bond between Osita and Vivek, as well as Kavita’s development by the end of the novel. I give this book three stars because I feel like the inclusion of so many character perspectives weakened its overall emotional resonance. I would’ve loved if we followed just Osita and Kavita so we could have gotten more scenes with them interacting with Vivek throughout Vivek’s life, which I feel like would’ve made me even more invested in their relationships. While I recognize the importance of this story on a social justice level, I think the wide spread of perspectives in a pretty succinct novel made it hard for me to care on a deeper level. Still, I’d recommend it to those who are interested in its synopsis. I’m also still looking forward to reading more of Akwaeke Emezi’s work as I already have their book Pet!

  15. 5 out of 5

    sarah xoxo

    "If nobody sees you, are you still there?” I cannot decide how I felt about this book. On the one hand, it was an incredibly well written, important and emotional novel. On the other, it was too short to get fully invested, had too many characters and not enough of the most complex and engaging one- Vivek. We begin the story with the end, the death of Vivek Oji. The book then backtracks and tells the story of Vivek from birth to untimely death. Throughout, there are deeply relevant discussion "If nobody sees you, are you still there?” I cannot decide how I felt about this book. On the one hand, it was an incredibly well written, important and emotional novel. On the other, it was too short to get fully invested, had too many characters and not enough of the most complex and engaging one- Vivek. We begin the story with the end, the death of Vivek Oji. The book then backtracks and tells the story of Vivek from birth to untimely death. Throughout, there are deeply relevant discussions of identity, acceptance and an overarching theme of love- in all its messiness. This book was thematically brilliant, but my main issue was that it seemed to be trying to pack in too many topics, characters and storylines into too short a page count. If it were a bit more fleshed out, I think it could have packed much more of an emotional punch. We follow everyone from Vivek's parents, cousin, grandmother, friends- and some who I could not even discern their purpose of being in the book. I may well have not being paying as much attention as I could have in some sections, so perhaps upon reread I will connect more. My favourite parts about The Death of Vivek Oji: the writing The writing was simply breathtaking- beautiful at times and ugly at others- but always in purposeful and masterful way. the setting Set in South-Eastern Nigeria, the setting is vibrant and culturally rich. However, Akwaeke Emezi does not shy away from the prejudice and discrimination evident. Vivek Oji For a book seemingly about Vivek, there wasn't nearly enough of the character. For the most part, we only see Vivek through other peoples eyes. For this reason, I never really felt like I knew the real Vivek. This could very well be the intention of the author, as the tagline for this book is "What does it mean for a family to lose a child they never really knew?" But I think it did the book a disservice. Overall, my feelings towards this novel are conflicted. I know this will be a hit for many, and for good reason- it is mostly for personal reasons that I couldn't connect to it as deeply as others. If the premise and themes intrigue you, I would without a doubt recommend it. Thank you to Penguin Random House and Libro.fm for this ALC Release Date: 4 August 2020

  16. 4 out of 5

    Berit☀️✨

    Beautiful and brutal. Tender and heartwrenching. Hopeful and hateful. Akwaeke Emezi touched my soul with her evocative storytelling. A stunning tale of tolerance, acceptance, friendship, and grief. This is the story of Vivek, A young Nigerian looking to discover who they are in a world that does not want to truly know them. The story starts with Vivek’s mother discovering their dead body wrapped in colorful cloth at the front door of the family home. The story then bounces around in time and bet Beautiful and brutal. Tender and heartwrenching. Hopeful and hateful. Akwaeke Emezi touched my soul with her evocative storytelling. A stunning tale of tolerance, acceptance, friendship, and grief. This is the story of Vivek, A young Nigerian looking to discover who they are in a world that does not want to truly know them. The story starts with Vivek’s mother discovering their dead body wrapped in colorful cloth at the front door of the family home. The story then bounces around in time and between the perspectives of several characters. As much as I would have liked to get inside Vivek’s head a little more. I thought it was tremendously impactful to get to know them through the impressions of others. Parts of this book were hard to read, the story really shows us the ugliest side of humanity, but ultimately the story left me feeling hopeful. The audiobook is narrated by Yetide Badaki and Chukwudi Iwuji Who brought such raw authenticity to this gorgeous story. I loved listening to the lovely Nigerian accent and appreciated that I was able to understand every beautiful word. I know my words have not done this story justice, just read it or listen to it, it will stay with you. *** Big thank you to Faber and Faber & LibroFM for my gifted copy of this book. All opinions are my own. ***

  17. 4 out of 5

    Book of the Month

    Why I love it by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah What happens to a person denied the space to be themselves? What does it look like to choose yourself? What is it to be, to exist, even against a multifaceted external denial? What can bloom when a person is enveloped in love? Akwaeke Emezi’s brilliant novel, The Death of Vivek Oji, asks these essential kinds of questions and more. Early in the novel we are introduced to the tragedy that is its namesake. We are then taken on an incredible journey through an Why I love it by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah What happens to a person denied the space to be themselves? What does it look like to choose yourself? What is it to be, to exist, even against a multifaceted external denial? What can bloom when a person is enveloped in love? Akwaeke Emezi’s brilliant novel, The Death of Vivek Oji, asks these essential kinds of questions and more. Early in the novel we are introduced to the tragedy that is its namesake. We are then taken on an incredible journey through and around the life of Vivek, who is a young person from southeastern Nigeria. Even as Vivek is mourned deeply, we discover many of those that are shattered by the loss refused to see and really accept Vivek in life. We see, as the novel unfolds, who Vivek was as a child and the journey that was a life ended too quickly. There is exploration of self and sexuality, there are friends that become family, there is so much. Akwaeke is able to render a world that feels vital and true. There is lush tenderness even as the novel’s titular violence hovers over the reader like a specter. There is a great power in Emezi’s words, an energy that reminds us that the body is only a beginning and that life is hard to reduce or contain. This is a book full of line-level beauty; a book of multiple perspectives, each rendered organically and fully; a book of mystery and community and love. This is a book of power, a special read that will not soon be forgotten. Read more at: https://bookofthemonth.com/the-death-...

  18. 4 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    Osita wished, much later, that he'd told Vivek the truth then, that he was so beautiful he made the air around him dull. A gorgeously emotive and tender novel that left me aching with compassion for the characters and also angry that so much unnecessary anguish can be caused by something as fluid as gendered and sexual identities. This is definitely a book which divides the generations: the traditional parents, the less fettered children. Emezi writes with understanding throughout and manages Osita wished, much later, that he'd told Vivek the truth then, that he was so beautiful he made the air around him dull. A gorgeously emotive and tender novel that left me aching with compassion for the characters and also angry that so much unnecessary anguish can be caused by something as fluid as gendered and sexual identities. This is definitely a book which divides the generations: the traditional parents, the less fettered children. Emezi writes with understanding throughout and manages to make this both a universal story of families and love, and yet also embeds it within Nigerian culture with attention to speech patterns and language. The world is so vividly written, the characters so rounded, I felt like I was living within this book and read it straight through in a day. For all the emotional ease with which this is delivered, it's technically superb, too: the seamless weaving of past and present, and different voices, never jar or feel contrived. One of my favourite reads this year - I loved this! Huge thanks to Faber & Faber for an ARC via NetGalley

  19. 5 out of 5

    Faith

    At the beginning of this book set in Nigeria, Vivek’s body is discovered by his mother on her doorstep. Most of the rest of the book flashes back to Vivek’s brief life, his friends, family and secrets. The writing was very good and the exploration of patriarchy, sexuality and gender identity was interesting. Despite the fact that there were some characters who I felt added nothing to the story, I would read this author again.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Anna Luce

    The Death of Vivek Oji is an enthralling novel. Akwaeke Emezi's lyrical prose is by turns evocative, sensual, and heart-wrenching. With empathy and understanding Emezi writes about characters who are grappling with grief and otherness, as well as with their gender identity and sexuality. “Did it feel like terror? More like horror, actually. Terrible sounded like it had a bit of acceptance in it, like an unthinkable thing had happened but you'd found space in your brain to acknowledge it, perhap The Death of Vivek Oji is an enthralling novel. Akwaeke Emezi's lyrical prose is by turns evocative, sensual, and heart-wrenching. With empathy and understanding Emezi writes about characters who are grappling with grief and otherness, as well as with their gender identity and sexuality. “Did it feel like terror? More like horror, actually. Terrible sounded like it had a bit of acceptance in it, like an unthinkable thing had happened but you'd found space in your brain to acknowledge it, perhaps even begin to accept it. Then again, horrible sounded the same way. The words had departed from their origins. They were diluted, denatured.” The first line of The Death of Vivek Oji informs us of Vivek Oji's death. When Chika and Kavita discover the body of their only child outside of their home, their lives are shattered. While Chika retreats inside himself, Kavita is desperate to find out what happened to Vivek. She urges Vivek's friends to speak out, but they seem unwilling to discuss Vivek with her. Although the narrative mostly focuses on Osita—who is Vivek's cousin—and Kavita's perspectives, we are also given insightful glimpses into the lives and minds of Vivek's friends. While the premise for The Death of Vivek Oji isn't entirely original (there are quite a few novels that revolve around the death of the story's central character is dead) Emezi's use of a non-linear narrative and the skilful way in which they inhabit different perspectives (switching between first and third povs) makes this novel stand out. Nigeria is the backdrop to Vivek's story and Emezi vividly renders its traditions, its idiosyncrasies, its contemporary culture (90s). Emezi's narratives is centred on those who feel, or are made to feel, different. Kavita belongs to the Nigerwives, foreign women married to Nigerian men. As this group of women help each other to navigate their married lives, their children come to form a deep bond. Emezi recounts Vivek's childhood through Osita's perspective. When one of Vivek's blackouts causes Osita to feel greatly embarrassed, the two become estranged. Over the next few years Osita hears of Vivek only through his parent. Vivek becomes increasingly disinterred with the rest of the world, hides at home, stops going to university, and Kavita, understandably, is worried. She tries to understand her child but seems unable to accept who Vivek is. Thankfully, Vivek finds solace in the daughters of the Nigerwives. Osita too re-enters Vivek's life, and the two become closer than ever. While I found both the sections set in the past and in the present to be deeply affecting, I particularly loved to read of Vivek's relationship with the Nigerwives' daughters. Reading about Osita and Kavita's lives after Vivek's death was truly heart-wrenching as Emezi truly captures the depths of their grief. I did find myself wishing to read more from Vivek's perspective. It seemed that Vivek's story was being told by people who did not have a clear image of Vivek. There was also a section focused on a character of no importance to Vivek's story (like, seriously, what was the point in him? it felt really out of place). The mystery surrounding Vivek's death was unnecessarily prolonged. But these are minor grievances. I loved the way Emezi articulated the feelings, thoughts, and impressions of their characters with grace and clarity. Emezi's novel is a real stunner, and if you enjoy books that explore complex familial relationship, such as Mira T. Lee's Everything Here Is Beautiful, chances are you will love The Death of Vivek Oji. Read more reviews on my blog / / / View all my reviews on Goodreads

  21. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Take special care if you decide to listen to “The Death of Vivek Oji”. Because the story takes place in southern Nigeria, the names of the characters require attention. Also, it’s written in Nigerian dialect, which provides the story an authentic tone, but requires, again, care upon listening. This is a special story that requires special attention to details. Saying that, I loved the story and the audio production. All the narrators are fantastic. The chapters are broken out with different narra Take special care if you decide to listen to “The Death of Vivek Oji”. Because the story takes place in southern Nigeria, the names of the characters require attention. Also, it’s written in Nigerian dialect, which provides the story an authentic tone, but requires, again, care upon listening. This is a special story that requires special attention to details. Saying that, I loved the story and the audio production. All the narrators are fantastic. The chapters are broken out with different narrators, each having their own impact and opinion on the life of Vivek. From the title, we know that Vivek dies. From the narrators, we learn how he lived. The mystery is what happened: how did he die? This is a coming-of-age story of a boy who struggles to find himself. His identity and sexuality which is not accepted in Nigerian society adds to his struggle. Author Akwaeka Emezi shows how young adult’s friends and peers become important in how they accept each other’s individuality. Emezi also shows how well-meaning parents and adults can be blinded by and unaccepting of what is right in front of their eyes. One of the biggest tragedies of the story is that everyone loved Vivek. Everyone thought they were doing what was best for Vivek, or honoring Vivek’s wishes. Author Emezi’s prose are beautiful. In one of Vivek’s narrations he states: “I’m not what anyone thinks I am. I never was. I didn’t have the mouth to put it into words, to say what was wrong, to change the things I felt I needed to change. And every day it was difficult, walking around and knowing that people saw me one way, knowing that they were wrong, so completely wrong, that the real me was invisible to them. It didn’t even exist to them.” Although this sounds bleak, redemption and love find ways into the story. Although Vivek is dead at the beginning of the story, the reader gains love for him through the narrators. Vivek was kind and peaceful. He’s a character who will stay with me for a long time.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Elle

    I was always going to be a sucker for this kind of story. This is probably my favorite type of sub-genre to read: a character-driven novel with and underlying mystery. I just really like the discovery of long-held secrets while slowly uncovering information about each character. And the mystery element running through the entirety of the plot keeps me unable to stop turning the page. The book is about, obviously, The Death of Vivek Oji, a character living in modern day Nigeria. There’s flashback I was always going to be a sucker for this kind of story. This is probably my favorite type of sub-genre to read: a character-driven novel with and underlying mystery. I just really like the discovery of long-held secrets while slowly uncovering information about each character. And the mystery element running through the entirety of the plot keeps me unable to stop turning the page. The book is about, obviously, The Death of Vivek Oji, a character living in modern day Nigeria. There’s flashbacks from all points of his life, from birth until his death, as well as the present after he’s died. The author takes us backwards then forwards then back again only to finish where it all started. If I felt like I knew what happened to Vivek, a new line would appear and snatch away my assuredness. Akwaeke Emezi is a beautiful writer. I’ve wanted to read their book Freshwater for some time, so I guess I’m going to have to do that sooner rather than later. There’s plenty of people who like to read books set in far-off countries as a means of ‘escape’. This is not going to be that kind of novel. Nigeria is as much like the United States or any other ‘western’ country in the ways that influence the story. Meaning, what happened to Vivek, the kind of life he lived, could have happened anywhere. The location and culture Emezi describes just adds another layer to the touching story they’re telling. I do feel like I’m in Nigeria while I’m reading, but not like I’m on vacation. The Death of Vivek Oji was a journey of love, loss and absolution. So much of what, not just Vivek, but the rest of the characters go through is thoroughly heartbreaking. The examination of the LGBTQ+ experience, especially in a very patriarchal society, is masterfully handled by Emezi. One of the truest things I think this novel makes clear is that people who fall under that umbrella are not a new invention, and there is no place on this Earth where they don’t exist. And pretending otherwise doesn’t make that any less true, it just makes it more dangerous for everyone involved. Thank you to Natalie at @bookreadreceipts for sending me this book! It almost makes up for the fact that you FINISHED IT WITHOUT ME!!! 😒

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ron Charles

    In 2018, Akwaeke Emezi’s debut novel arrived like a revelation. With its incantatory prose, “Freshwater” disrupted conventional ways of thinking, pushing readers outside the dualistic frameworks of body and spirit, male and female, psychotic and sane. The story describes the harrowing experiences of a young Nigerian woman who contains several distinct selves. But for Emezi, a non-binary trans person, the disparate voices that deliver this story are not merely a sophisticated narrative technique. In 2018, Akwaeke Emezi’s debut novel arrived like a revelation. With its incantatory prose, “Freshwater” disrupted conventional ways of thinking, pushing readers outside the dualistic frameworks of body and spirit, male and female, psychotic and sane. The story describes the harrowing experiences of a young Nigerian woman who contains several distinct selves. But for Emezi, a non-binary trans person, the disparate voices that deliver this story are not merely a sophisticated narrative technique. They’re a literal representation of the interior voices that Emezi hears. “My brain works like this,” Emezi once told me. “I don’t consider it a mental illness. I consider it real.” Emezi’s new novel continues the exploration of lives that fracture rigid attitudes about selfhood and sexuality. The whole story takes place in the penumbra of grief. Even the book’s title, “The Death of Vivek Oji,” leaves little room for optimism, and the first chapter — just a single sentence — reveals the time of death: “They burned down the market on the day Vivek Oji died.” But over the course of the novel, Emezi constantly affirms and resists the inevitability of that tragedy. If only, if only, if only. . . . Vivek’s death is emphasized so often that it acquires an odd kind of mystery, like the blurry edges of a legend. Although the presence of spiritual forces is muted in “The Death of Vivek Oji,” the possibility of ancestral reincarnation frames the story in. . . . To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/entert...

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    The Death of Vivek Oji spirals around the mystery of Vivek's death while illuminating his family and his isolation in an intolerant community. Most of the pieces come together, but a few of the detours felt like unnecessary padding. Still..so beautifully written, with searing moments of despair and hope. By the end of the novel, Vivek Oji had come alive for me.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    ARC received in exchange for an honest review. The Death 0f Vivek Oji starts, as you would expect, with the body of Vivek Oji turning up on his family doorstep wrapped in a colourful blanket. As his mother cradles Vivek’s body, and starts to question how her only child came to die, we are transported back over the years and months before Vivek died and what led to their death. We see how Vivek’s parents met and fell in love, we see his Aunt and Uncle have their own son and how he becomes Vivek’ ARC received in exchange for an honest review. The Death 0f Vivek Oji starts, as you would expect, with the body of Vivek Oji turning up on his family doorstep wrapped in a colourful blanket. As his mother cradles Vivek’s body, and starts to question how her only child came to die, we are transported back over the years and months before Vivek died and what led to their death. We see how Vivek’s parents met and fell in love, we see his Aunt and Uncle have their own son and how he becomes Vivek’s best friend and partner in all things. We see the wider Nigerwives community and how they rely around Vivek’s mother in her grief amongst their own family struggles. And at the centre we start to unravel the realities of Vivek’s life, and their hidden true identity. For a book that is just under 250 pages I found this to be incredibly well written and the family characters are all very well developed and described. We get to know a lot of the intricacies of their lives and how they work around Vivek without really seeing them for who they truly are. The prose are wonderfully nuanced and loaded with intent, with descriptions of oppression and prejudice seen within a community that outwardly presents itself as accepting. Vivek is the centre of the story, around which everyone else revolves. They light up the narrative, and I felt a real connection with them as they start to discover who they want to be, and the struggles this then presents. I was also deeply mved by Vivek’s mother and her depiction of grief. I could understand her anger at other people grieving her son and how she believes they have no right to grieve – Vivek was her only son, her life. Grief isn’t always about sadness and reflection. It’s also heavily tied into negative emotions of hurt and anger. I’ve felt that myself, and I thought that was wonderfully depicted here. The conclusion to this also absolutely floored me, and was not what I was expecting. It was so powerful, yet also deeply bitter sweet. A truly moving piece of literature, I would implore everyone to read to learn about self-acceptance, found families and above all learning to grieve an individual you might have not truly know in life.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Chelsey (a_novel_idea11)

    A tragic and beautiful story of a hidden self and forbidden love. The dead body of Vivek Oji is left bloodied and stripped bare on his parents doorstep. His grief stricken mother seeks answers and is angered that his friends are clearly hiding things about his final days. Vivek was lost long before his death and it was clear that he was depressed. Growing his hair long, he brought shame and confusion to his family by defying the norms set for men in the community. He was suffering from blackouts A tragic and beautiful story of a hidden self and forbidden love. The dead body of Vivek Oji is left bloodied and stripped bare on his parents doorstep. His grief stricken mother seeks answers and is angered that his friends are clearly hiding things about his final days. Vivek was lost long before his death and it was clear that he was depressed. Growing his hair long, he brought shame and confusion to his family by defying the norms set for men in the community. He was suffering from blackouts and fugue states and lacked purpose and a sense of self. When he befriends several girls in his neighborhood, he begins to flourish in a new, hidden life, even beginning a forbidden love affair. In his death, his friends must decide what truths to keep hidden and which ones to bring to the light. His family must decide if they can love the child they lost, rather than the son they envisioned. This was a heart wrenching story. The writing was exquisite and the details were rich. The nonlinear timeline added a depth to the story that allowed the reader to fill in gaps and create more complex characters. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy of this novel.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Starlah

    TW: death, abuse of LGBTQIA+ folx, incest This story starts with a mother opening her door to find her son's dead body, wrapped in colorful fabric, at her feet. I absolutely loved the structure of this story. I can imagine how difficult it is to write an interesting and engaging story when it's conclusion is already known from the beginning. Vivek is dead. They die by the end of this book. As well, the perspectives of this story are being told by everyone about the title character. Which again, I TW: death, abuse of LGBTQIA+ folx, incest This story starts with a mother opening her door to find her son's dead body, wrapped in colorful fabric, at her feet. I absolutely loved the structure of this story. I can imagine how difficult it is to write an interesting and engaging story when it's conclusion is already known from the beginning. Vivek is dead. They die by the end of this book. As well, the perspectives of this story are being told by everyone about the title character. Which again, I think is a very difficult thing to write. So already, for Emezi to have tackled these two writing structures and done them so well, I am already impressed and loved this story. In some ways, I really like how stories like this present a character's death in the beginning because it allows the readers to shift their focus and energy from wondering whether or not the main character is going to die and focuses more so on everything that leads up to that event. We get to focus, deeply, on all of the characters, their mindsets, their relationships with each other as well at the main character, instead of wondering whether the actions that happened are going to allow the main character to live or die. From the beginning, I wasn't wondering what would happen to Vivek, I was wondering WHY it would happen and, while reading, was dissecting every interaction and internal monologue that lead up to it. From the FIRST page, I was hooked; I was invested. Emezi has such a way of capturing a reader from page one and I love that. We then continue on in the story to explore the different relationships Vivek had with their family and friends and people in their community. While we do get perspectives from everyone, the main two we swing back and forth on are Vivek's and Osita, Vivek's cousin. The book is set in Nigeria and throughout it, it is very critical of Nigerian culture and how it can be discriminatory and harmful to many different communities - disabled people, queer people, topics of child-bearing. It's things like believing queer people are possessed by demons. Shaming and blaming women for not getting pregnant or not having a son. Toxic masculinity is a huge topic in this book. The way that Vivek's parents don't listen to Vivek. The way that they don't accept their child's reality and how that lack of support and acceptance can affect a child. The writing of this story was just so beautiful. It is the perfect combination of powerful and harrowing statements and flowery prose that helps to paint the picture. There were multiple times while reading this, that I had to stop and just ... contemplate. Just think and be in the moment of what I just read. The story is of a handful of young, Nigerian folx who are just trying to live their lives as authentically as possible. There are so many delicate, sensitive issues that are handled with care in this. And it was amazing. I will say, I do kind of wish the book showed more of the good things of Nigerian culture because I don't think any culture is wholly bad. I also wish it took a stronger, objectively negative stance on the incest that happened in the book. But overall, very much enjoyed it and I cannot wait to continue to read more from Akwaeke Emezi.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Elle (ellexamines)

    thinking about how in august there will be a new akwaeke emezi book............ trying to live a good life just so i'm worthy of it

  29. 4 out of 5

    Nnenna

    I devoured this book in one day. I’d heard such good things about Emezi’s writing and now I know for myself they are a wonderful storyteller. I loved that this book was set in Nigeria. I’ve only been to Nigeria a few times, so I enjoy learning more about the country and the culture through books. I appreciated the way that Emezi incorporated some Igbo phrases without explaining them, and Pidgin English. I knew what most of the phrases meant and it made the dialogue feel very realistic. The story I devoured this book in one day. I’d heard such good things about Emezi’s writing and now I know for myself they are a wonderful storyteller. I loved that this book was set in Nigeria. I’ve only been to Nigeria a few times, so I enjoy learning more about the country and the culture through books. I appreciated the way that Emezi incorporated some Igbo phrases without explaining them, and Pidgin English. I knew what most of the phrases meant and it made the dialogue feel very realistic. The story unfurls slowly. We start with the knowledge that Vivek Oji is dead, and then layer after layer is peeled off until we are left with the truth. Some chapters are written from Vivek’s perspective, some from his cousin, Osita’s perspective, and the rest from a third-person narrator. I thought the pacing was really well done, especially given that it’s a short book. Emezi writes about the cyclical nature of life and about discovering your true self. I’m being vague about the plot/themes because I really feel like you should go into this book blind and just let the story take you. The opening chapters in particular felt very cinematic to me- I could see this being a quiet and beautifully shot film. It’s just a beautiful and heartbreaking story and now I am even more excited to read the rest of Emezi’s work.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    Barely into adulthood, Vivek Oji is dead. That's not a spoiler - we are told as much in the title of Akwaeke Emezi's beautiful new novel, the follow up to their debut, Freshwater. I don't really want to box it into a genre, but I suppose it would be fair to say the narrative is propelled along by the mystery of Vivek's death and the doggedness of a mother's search for the truth behind the death of her only child. So it begins with the death, then circles back to the beginning, when Vivek's parent Barely into adulthood, Vivek Oji is dead. That's not a spoiler - we are told as much in the title of Akwaeke Emezi's beautiful new novel, the follow up to their debut, Freshwater. I don't really want to box it into a genre, but I suppose it would be fair to say the narrative is propelled along by the mystery of Vivek's death and the doggedness of a mother's search for the truth behind the death of her only child. So it begins with the death, then circles back to the beginning, when Vivek's parents first met and fell in love. Following Vivek through life, we get to know the loving parents; one fierce and strong, the other weaker and flawed, but both devoted to the child born on the day their grandmother died. Luckily for only-child Vivek there was cousin Osita, of a similar age and as close as any brother, spending more time at Vivek's home growing up than at his own. Things begin to change in their late teenage and university years though, and the cousins drift apart. Then, when Vivek is taken out of university to recover from being 'unwell', the two are reunited. The story is told from the alternating perspectives of Vivek and Osita, each withholding and divulging certain pieces of information that help to ease the pieces of the story-puzzle together. There are strong themes of sexual and gender identity throughout. It's not until the very end that we discover the true circumstances of Vivek's death, and the revelation is devastating. I had a lump in my throat for hours after. Highly recommended. With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review.

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