books Review

The Death of Vivek Oji

January 3, 2021

Long dark winter evenings in the van offer time to immerse in more books, podcasts and films. So I thought I’d share the occasional opinion here on the blog.

I began The Death of Vivek Oji, by award-winning Nigerian author Akwaeke Emezi, in December but only finished last night so felt this would be a good one to start 2021.

This quite beautiful river of a book slides silent through the private world of a group of friends in which our titular character has been killed in suspicious circumstances. Emezi uses the voices of two characters, Osita and the deceased, along with a third-person narrative, to create time-pools and eddies through which the reader experiences flashbacks and prophecies almost simultaneously as the narrative flow exposes raw grief and its distressing physical and emotional effects,

“Chika’s grief dragged down every centimetre of his skin, pulling muscles and bones along with it, making it hard for him to stand up.”

Through actions that both tumble into, and flow from, this murder we understand that death is both an unstoppable force eroding the will of our characters, as well as a bright portal for personal growth,

“Chika’s jaw clenched, but he knew she was right, if Vivek had been alive, he would never have conceded her point, but when you’ve stood on ground and know your child’s bones are rotting beneath you, rage and ego fade like dust in a strong wind.”

I’m so utterly bored of the huge amounts of word salad out there these days, but thankfully there’s also real gems offering up their light. This is what elevates a novel for me, I suppose I don’t just want entertainment, I need to know that the author has an authentic understanding of how people (and/or nature) work, so that by sharing these insights through fiction they can illuminate a shadowed corner of life for the rest of us. But also it needs to be a good story. Fortunately this is both.
Recommended reading.

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