The Death of Vivek Oji
A NEW YORK TIMES EDITOR’S CHOICE
"Electrifying." — O: The Oprah Magazine
Named a Best Book of the Year by The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, USA TODAY, Vanity Fair, Elle, Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, Shondaland, Teen Vogue, Vulture, Lit Hub, Bustle, Electric Literature, and BookPage
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.
[A] dazzling, devastating story . . . A puzzle wrapped in beautiful language, raising questions of identity and loyalty that are as unanswerable as they are important.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Remarkably assured and graceful. . . . Emezi has once again encouraged us to embrace a fuller spectrum of human experience.” —The Washington Post
“This affecting novel of self-invention . . . poses searching questions about gender and acceptance.” —The New Yorker
“Instead of getting flattened by death, Vivek becomes more vivid on each page. He glows like the sun, impossible to look at directly yet utterly charismatic. I missed him when the novel was done.” —NPR
“Powerful . . . [a] slim book that contains as wide a range of experience as any saga — a little bit like Vivek’s brief yet gloriously expansive life.” —Los Angeles Times
“Emezi has a gift for prose that is often as visceral, tender and heartbreaking as what it describes. . . . While the novel sets out to solve the mystery of Oji’s death, what gives it power is how it uncovers the story of a person shielded by the peace of self-acceptance against the pain of the world. Here is proof of what good fiction does best: it is an antidote to invisibility.” —The Guardian
“Emezi’s tender prose deftly depicts the inner lives of Vivek, Osita and those around them. . . . While the mystery surrounding Vivek’s death is finally revealed towards the end of this spellbinding mystery, what proves most satisfying is all that is learnt in the search for truth.” —Financial Times