THE DEATH OF VIVEK OJI
(Slight spoiler warning)
“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 the ground and known your child’s bones are rotting beneath you, rage and ego fade like dust in a strong wind.”
The Death of Vivek Oji is beautifully written and entirely engrossing. It was an uncomfortable read and I can see why it may not be for everyone, but I deeply appreciated this story about being true to who you are, found family, and parental grief. It is nothing short of incredible how much story exists in this otherwise short book. All of the characters are so well drawn with their different complexities and I was completely absorbed.
But the character that had me clutching my heart the most was Vivek’s mother, Kavita. The way Emezi describes her grief was just so utterly heartbreaking. It’s hard being a parent, because you hope that you will give your child the complete safety and space to be who they are. They are their own person and your relationship with them will probably shift and change as they grow older and they start to discover who they are, and you have to see them for who they choose to be, with you and without you. For so many parents (myself included) I’m sure sometimes this is a hard pill to swallow. In the book, Kavita has difficulty when she is confronted with other people’s grief over the death of her child. But she did not own Vivek, and she is not the only one allowed to grieve him. To see your child, truly, for who they are only after they die is a curse I don’t wish upon anyone. So I hug my child close, and I will see him in all his glorious humanity and hope he will forgive me if sometimes I stumble, as I’m sure I will.