The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi gutted me. Absolutely gutted me. I can't get it out of my mind and think of Vivek often when I look at my children's faces. While I was reading it, I recalled a quote that stood out to me when I first read it. "Love the child you have, not the child you wish you had." Later that evening, I finished The Death of Vivek Oji and was reeling. If that quote does not epitomize Vivek's story, I'm not sure what does. The Death of Vivek Oji is an LGTBQ+ story for our times that I believe will one day become a classic. Set in Nigeria, the characters and plotline bring something for the table for everyone to identify with and is done so with writing that is fresh, bold, and thought provoking. This book quickly became one of my favorite reads of the year. I HIGHLY recommend this one. It is a masterpiece and future classic. Emezi's storytelling abilities are incredible and had me racing to my library to pick up their other book.
Kavita is an overbearing, overprotective mother who finds her only son, Vivek, dead on her doorstep one evening. Vivek was a gentle spirit, but struggled with random blackouts that leave him disoriented. How and why he died is a mystery, as is who brought him to her doorstep. Kavita tries to uncover what happened to Vivek and discovers that she never truly knew her son. Set in modern day Nigeria, The Death of Vivek Oji is a heart wrenching story of a family's struggle to understand who their child truly was. A coming of age story of love, hate, and acceptance, familial bonds and the testament of friendships.
See rating below, the come back to said thoughts. :)
I adored this story. There is literally a character for everyone to identify with and so many eyes to view this story through. Vivek is born on the same day his beloved grandmother passes away. This aspect of the story brings up somewhat of a reincarnation theme that persists throughout Vivek's story. The love and grief that his birth brings is something that stays with him until the day his mother finds him on their front steps. One of my favorite quotes from the book is, "love and guilt sometimes taste the same, you know." Life is full of conflicting feelings and this book encompasses that.
Kavita is an overprotective, overbearing mother who wants to "fix" everything. As a parent myself, I understand and identify with this feeling, it is one I grapple with on a daily basis. Kavita's overprotectiveness prevents her from truly knowing her son, Vivek. Vivek is a kind, gentle spirit who is misunderstood by his family, but finds friendship and love in his cousin, Osita. Kavita is part of a familial group called the Nigerwives, who have children of their own that form a friendship with Vivek and Osita. These kids grow up together, support and love each other, and unravel who Vivek really was. Ultimately, Vivek just wants to him themselves, with quiet acceptance and no judgement. His story will touch you at your core. After finishing this book, I can't help but hurt for Kavita, but it is a good lesson for any parent or caretaker. Accept and love the children you have, not the children you want. There is a difference and the sooner we realize that, the sooner we will get to know who are children truly are.
One of my favorite books of 2020.
"Some people can't see softness without wanting to hurt it."
"Alone is a feeling you get used to and it's hard to believe in a better alternative."
"If nobody sees you, are you still there?"
"Love and guilt sometimes taste the same, you know."