What does it mean for a family to lose a child they never really knew?
One afternoon, in a town in southeastern Nigeria, a mother opens her front door to discover her son’s body, wrapped in colorful fabric, at her feet. What follows is the tumultuous, heart-wrenching story of one family’s struggle to understand a child whose spirit is both gentle and mysterious. Raised by a distant father and an understanding but overprotective mother, Vivek suffers disorienting blackouts, moments of disconnection between self and surroundings. As adolescence gives way to adulthood, Vivek finds solace in friendships with the warm, boisterous daughters of the Nigerwives, foreign-born women married to Nigerian men. But Vivek’s closest bond is with Osita, the worldly, high-spirited cousin whose teasing confidence masks a guarded private life. As their relationship deepens—and Osita struggles to understand Vivek’s escalating crisis—the mystery gives way to a heart-stopping act of violence in a moment of exhilarating freedom.
Propulsively readable, teeming with unforgettable characters, The Death of Vivek Oji is a novel of family and friendship that challenges expectations—a dramatic story of loss and transcendence that will move every reader.
As you read the very first line in this book, you feel the dread creeping up your spine. And then there’s rage. A slow trickle at first that builds into something that’s nearly impossible to contain.
‘The Death of Vivek Oji’ is a window to a world tainted by injustice, at the centre of which is a bubble, one that offers protection and love, created by friends who want the best for you. Held within its embrace is Vivek Oji, fiercely in terms with his sexuality despite the scorns of the society and the abandonment by the people he loves the most.
Vivek fights a battle most people in the LGBTQ community do. The acceptance of one’s sexuality by the society.
Vivek, the only child to Kavita (‘A half-caste’) and Chika (a Nigerian), dies mysteriously. His body is found at their doorstep, stripped off his clothes. What follows is a hysterical mother looking for answers, anything that provides her the closure she seeks.
Vivek grows up with Osita, his cousin and his closest confidante. Over the years he develops these dizzy spells, most likely because he is fighting his sexuality, one that could ruin his world if not handled cautiously and delicately. But the fragile ones are trampled in this world, subjected to violence and sometimes flogged mercilessly (‘religious exorcism’), their right to live with their head held high taken away by people who think of themselves as the makers of the social diktats.
This is more than a coming-out story. It’s about a community and their collective experience and beliefs.
Beyond a coming-out story, ‘The Death of Vivek Oji’ is an empathic and tender narration of a community where there are the natives and the ‘Nigerwives’ or the ‘Half-caste’, ones trying to belong. The clash between the Hausa and Igbo clan, the shifting and fragible family dynamics is another layer added to the story, through a nonlinear, accessible and evocative narration. Thus, what we readers are privy to, is the metamorphosis of a troublesome and curious child into a shy and mysterious adult.
‘The Death of Vivek Oji’ chips your heart bit by bit, pieces that you won’t mind leaving behind within these pages. It’s raw and brutal, but compassionate and hopeful.Tweet
‘The Death of Vivek Oji’ chips your heart bit by bit, pieces that you won’t mind leaving behind within these pages. It’s raw and brutal, but compassionate and hopeful.
An e-ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley. The opinions in this post are solely my own.
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