The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi – A book review


For those who haven’t had a book hangover recently, or you just want despite that is what you did last week too, The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi is for you. Honestly, I couldn’t just drop the book and walk off once I finished it. Read more of book review of The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi to know why.

About The Death of Vivek Oji

The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi Book review Cover

Book Name: The Death of Vivek Oji

Author: Akwaeke Emezi

Genre: Fiction – RomanceYoung adult

Characters: Vivek, Chika and Kavita Oji, Osita, Juju

Setting: North Carolina , The USA

Plot Summary of The Death of Vivek Oji

Vivek Oji is dead, but his violent death leaves a long overcast over his parents, his cousin Osita and their friends. His mother is set on a journey to figuring out what happened to her son. Osita is losing himself to alcohol and has left the town, and their other friends do not seem to know what happened either.

But The Death of Vivek Oji is also about the life of Vivek Oji. Born to an Indian mom in a Niger family, Vivek’s life is nothing short of colorful. As a teen, he starts to grow distant from his parents and closer to his friends, the daughters of other Niger-wives (foreign women married to Niger men) and his cousin.

Did Kavita find out what happened to her son? What did happened to him form the rest of The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi.

Book review of The Death of Vivek Oji

The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi is a coming-of-age story of a Nigerian boy, who is struggling to find himself in a country where it is not appreciated. And his life come to an abrupt stop.

The Death of Vivek Oji is a breathtaking story about identity, belonging and grief. It tackles several serious topics like sexuality, transphobia, parental acceptance, etc. without losing the emotional grip it has on the reader.

The book opens with the The Death of Vivek Oji, and we move between years to know how and why. This non-linear shift makes the story more intriguing as well as impactful. We get to know the three generations of the Oji family and along theirs, the life of Niger-wives and their children who bore the “outsider” tag.

I absolutely loved Emezi’s way with words and how she easily wrings my heart out. Trust me when I say that, because I silently cried while reading the book and then bawled out after I finished it. And I don’t do it often. The voices of her characters are powerful, yet restrained.

I loved reading the political and cultural history of Nigeria, and I could see most of them happening in an Indian set-up – the Christian conversion, the exorcism to beat the devil away, and of course the repression of LGBT. But all is not bad, the book gave me a glimpse of hope about the future, seeing the youth in Vivek’s lives were accepting and open to change.

What worked for me

  • Akwaeke Emezi’s writing, words and characters – powerful, yet subtle, refreshing and heartbreaking
  • I loved reading about southeastern Nigeria and its way of life.
  • The ending was wonderful; and hopeful for the future.

What may have been better

  • There are several sub-(sub?)-plots that might have taken up much space. I definitely enjoyed reading them, but were they necessary? Instead if we could have had more about Vivek, I would probably take it.

Content warning

Attempted sexual assault, suicidal thoughts, homophobia, transphobia, incest, domestic abuse, violence, cheating, depictions of grief & depression.

Bottom line

The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi is one book that won’t be forgotten anytime soon. It is at times bleak but it is also heartwarming that love finds a way. You have to read this, if you are ready for a bawl.

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2 responses to “The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi – A book review”

  1. I loved this book too — thought it was absolutely gorgeous and surprisingly hopeful given the subject matter. Emezi is such a talented writer and I am always pleased when they have a new book out.

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