Five Things About… The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi

This book is interesting in the sense that I liked it a lot, but also found a lot of flaws (especially after dissecting it with my colleagues/friends at our English Department book club). But the fact that that dichotomy can exist within the same book speaks toward the author’s potential. 

One component I really loved was the structure, which moved between characters and time periods. Akin to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold, we know that the main character is going to show up on his own doorstep dead eventually. But how? Why?

One of the novel’s main thematic focuses is on sexuality and the generational views of it in Nigeria. Vivek is born a male and treated as such by his family and friends, but as the book moves forward we learn this is not the gender in which he (for the purpose of maintaining adherence to a majority of the plot’s pronoun use I will refer to Vivek as a “he”) feels comfort identifying with. Anything other than cis-gender and heterosexuality is prohibited in this culture, therefore Vivek must keep this private, which he cannot. I think this book is a great read for those who want to learn more about gender fluidity, sexuality, etc…

This book provides a definite commentary on parenthood, as well. It can be hard to recognize that your children are their own people and your idea of what may be the best for them completely diverges from who they really are and what they need to satisfy that identity. Without giving anything away, I think there’s a definite message that regret is powerful and if you are forced to suddenly be without a loved one you don’t want to wish you had behaved otherwise.

I mentioned before that I did have some criticism. The pacing was a bit rushed at the end, a few narrative threads were either not well-developed or fizzled out, and some of the symbols and motifs were overdone.

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