A review by abbie_
The Death of Vivek Oji, by Akwaeke Emezi
challenging emotional reflective medium-paced
- Strong character development? Yes
- Loveable characters? Yes
- Diverse cast of characters? Yes
- Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated
I was really eager to try Emezi's adult fiction after I read Pet in June. I thought if I loved their YA, which is not my go-to genre, then their adult fiction would be even better, and I wasn't wrong! The Death of Vivek Oji is incredible. The US version has been making the rounds on bookstagram since late 2019, but as usual the UK version was released much later so I sat in anticipation... and it was worth the wait!
Emezi credits Gabriel García Márquez in the afterword for the structure of the book, as it's inspired by Chronicle of a Death Foretold. Honestly I think The Death of Vivek Oji is better. It has much more heart, the characters feel more alive (even when they're dead), and Emezi's prose is gorgeous, yet seems effortless at the same time.
From the beginning of the book, we learn that Vivek Oji is dead. The rest of the novel unfurls gently, taking us back through time and painting a vivid picture of Vivek's life. Vivek's mother and father are dealing with his death in very different ways, his father resigned to the violence inflicted on his son, while his mother is desperate to unearth the truth surrounding the murky events. Emezi explores the nuances of gender identity, grief and love in a way that is both tender and urgent. They have a way of distilling complex issues into sentences which maintain the impact and complexity of the issue in a succinct way. An example: 'Some people can't see softness without wanting to hurt it.'
At first I was surprised by the switches in perspective throughout. Some chapters are narrated in a neutral, third-person perspective, while others are first-person from various characters in the book. But honestly, both third and first person are written beautifully, and I adored reading especially from Osita (Vivek's cousin) and Vivek's perspective, as they felt so real and raw.
Now I only have Freshwater left to read, and I hear that one is spectacular! I'll probably save it for a while though, as I hate running out of books to read by a great author, despite wanting to read more of their work!! It's a fine balance, okay! Now go read this one.