The Death of Vivek Oji

Hardcover, 248 pages

English language

Published Jan. 6, 2020 by Penguin Random House.

ISBN:
9780525541608

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4 stars (1 review)

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 …

4 editions

in between days

4 stars

I love Akwaeke Emezi, and this book is a fine example of why. The dualities and boundary-straddling on so many different levels of this novel are fascinating to think about. I want to expand on that, but there's kind of no good way to do that without spoiling the ending.

The narrative structure of the book is interesting and unique, flipping between a handful of first-person chapters and a third person story that gives a panoptic view of the characters at the heart of the novel. My only complaint about that is it feels like we don't get a chance to know everything we want to know about everyone involved, but it's a short book, so it's understandable.

I did like the story and structure of Freshwater a bit better, but the exploration of assumptions and things that aren't quite what they seem in Vivek Oji were gorgeously crafted and …