The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi

Estimated read time 4 min read

Akwaeke Emezi writes beautifully, and you can’t take good storytelling away from her. The Death of Vivek Oji is a heavily packed novel filled with delicate and sensitive issues.

It carries so much weight that readers are often left in turmoil when reaching some chapters as they do not know which issue to digest and which ones to just stare back at.

Synopsis

Vivek Oji is born the same day his grandmother dies. Due to this strange happenstance, his birthdays are not a cause for celebration as grief shadows it.

Their lives are disrupted on the same day the riots happen. Vivek’s mother finds him dead on their welcome mat at home. She has no idea what happened to her boy and is out in search of answers. Answers to the life of a son she didn’t own or know too well.

Themes

The Death of Vivek Oji has rich themes. Themes that cut across both generations, ones that cannot be overlooked or even taken away from the story if you wanted to.

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Akwaeke knows how to weave heavy themes into a simple story. Every event comes with a highlighter of its own, and it is just super brilliant how she’s able to touch all parts of the reader: mind, body, and soul.

Community

I love how the community is portrayed in this novel. Vivek’s mother found herself in a community of Nigerwives (foreign women who had married Nigerian men). They held parties and turned to each other for advice. It helped to keep them going.

Vivek also found a community of his own in the children of the Nigerwives that provided a safe space for him and gave him room to be his true self.

The Struggle With Sexuality

It’s evident that the youngsters of the Nigerwives struggled with their sexuality, which is very typical given their upbringing, society, and coming of age. It weighed heavy on them and wore them out. To survive it, they became a close-knit community that looked out for each other.

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Queerness

To say Vivek/ Osita was gay wouldn’t make complete sense. Describing JuJu and Elizbeth as lesbians would also give room for a lot of questions.

I find it that both parties hadn’t figured it all out in terms of their sexuality, and queer would be the best term to describe them as.

Incest

“If I didn’t love Osita already, I would have for that evening alone. For coming to find me, for kissing sense into me. For breaking himself apart, trusting me with his secret”

One highlight in The Death of Vivek Oji that glares hard at you is the incest- Vivek and Osita were cousins and were deeply in love with one another. Still, it’s hard to fault them. Homophobia roamed their streets, and they knew Nigeria wouldn’t accept them, so they accepted themselves for what they were – in love.

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Setting

The Death of Vivek Oji is set in South-Eastern Nigeria. It portrays the beautiful and rich Igbo culture. 

Narrative Technique

The narrative technique implored in this masterpiece is the first-person point of view, where we get to hear Vivek and Osita talk about their lives and experiences.

There’s also the third-person point of view that gives other characters a voice. The story is told in reverse. It recounts how he was found dead, his birth, his life, and how he died.

End Note

I picked this book because of a Twitter post that advised Christians against reading the book. I don’t know what their issue is or was but I’m glad they put up that tweet because that was what led me to it.

I enjoyed this novel so much, even though the last two chapters made me bawl my eyes out at 2 am.

I strongly recommend The Death of Vivek Oji, especially to youngsters who are just coming of age.

Britney Tachie

Britney Tachie also known as Ghanaianbooklover is a Ghanaian Bookstagrammer, poet and writer. She enjoys reading African fiction, especially works written by women and exploring art.

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