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Publisher's Summary

Instant New York Times Best Seller

"Electrifying." (O: The Oprah Magazine) 

Named a Best Book of 2020 by The New York TimesThe 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 listenable, 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 listener.

©2020 Akwaeke Emezi (P)2020 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“[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)

"Electrifying” (O: The Oprah Magazine)

"Brilliant ... This is a book full of line-level beauty; a book of multiple perspectives, each rendered organically and fully; a book of mystery and community and love.... A special read that will not soon be forgotten.” (Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, author of Friday Black)

Featured Article: Stirring Audiobooks Guaranteed to Make You Cry


When life gets overwhelming, there’s nothing more comforting than getting lost in an emotional listen and having a good cry. Whether a novel or a memoir, listens that make you cry are always a good thing: it means you’ve connected with the characters, become invested in the story, and truly feel the feelings—heartache, regret, betrayal, grief—the author intended to convey. Listen in to one of these audiobooks that will leave you reaching for the tissues.

What listeners say about The Death of Vivek Oji

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an emotional story

Take special care if you decide to listen to “The Death of Vivek Oji”. Because the story takes place in southern Nigeria, the names of the characters require attention. Also, it’s written in Nigerian dialect, which provides the story an authentic tone, but requires, again, care upon listening. This is a special story that requires special attention to details.

Saying that, I loved the story and the audio production. All the narrators are fantastic. The chapters are broken out with different narrators, each having their own impact and opinion on the life of Vivek. From the title, we know that Vivek dies. From the narrators, we learn how he lived. The mystery is what happened: how did he die?

This is a coming-of-age story of a boy who struggles to find himself. His identity and sexuality which is not accepted in Nigerian society adds to his struggle. Author Akwaeka Emezi shows how young adult’s friends and peers become important in how they accept each other’s individuality. Emezi also shows how well-meaning parents and adults can be blinded by and unaccepting of what is right in front of their eyes. One of the biggest tragedies of the story is that everyone loved Vivek. Everyone thought they were doing what was best for Vivek, or honoring Vivek’s wishes.

Author Emezi’s prose are beautiful. In one of Vivek’s narrations he states: “I’m not what anyone thinks I am. I never was. I didn’t have the mouth to put it into words, to say what was wrong, to change the things I felt I needed to change. And every day it was difficult, walking around and knowing that people saw me one way, knowing that they were wrong, so completely wrong, that the real me was invisible to them. It didn’t even exist to them.”

Although this sounds bleak, redemption and love find ways into the story. Although Vivek is dead at the beginning of the story, the reader gains love for him through the narrators. Vivek was kind and peaceful. He’s a character who will stay with me for a long time.

10 people found this helpful

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Extraordinary, Courageous, Moving!

I have worked in Nigeria for over 30 years. This narrated book was a joy to my ears--the inflections, emotions, and colloquialisms. The characters all were so well developed orbiting around Namdi/Vivek. There was a richness to descriptions; I could see the scenes. This was a courageous book to write in an environment that does not accept anything different from the traditional, which is held onto tenaciously.

Beautiful, flowing phrases. Palpable pain, sorry, guilt, confusion, frustration yet protectiveness, tenderness, compassion, and joy. I could almost see Namdi in her twirling dress being free, joyous to be her true self. This is an important story that speaks to how we kill the soul of others unwittingly. Thank you.

5 people found this helpful

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Beautiful Book

This is such a beautiful book. The narration was perfect. You obviously know from the beginning that Vivek dies, but the circumstances of his death still hit you in the gut. It’s written from many perspectives, but manages to do so without confusing the reader. As you read the book, his mother’s pain pulls on you and makes you feel her loss. Her desperation at not knowing the truth, and then realizing she knew even less than what she thought, was heart breaking. There is so much grief in this book, but it somehow manages to leave the reader feeling at peace. There’s a reason why this book has landed on so many recommended book lists.

2 people found this helpful

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Gutwrenching

This book was amazing. The narration was perfection. The story was gripping and gutwrenching. Beautifully told.

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They did it again

This book is breathtakingly beautiful. Akwaeke Emezi is a true visionary. I cringed, I smiled, I thought, and i cried. this book takes you on a much needed journey.

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A truly great novel with a wonderful narration

A highly impressive novel that will lure you in.
At the start the body of Vivek Oji is laid on his mother’s doorstep. We know Vivek will die but who was Vivek, what kind of person was he and why was his life cut short? This is the story of a man growing up in middle class community in Nigeria, an outsider trying to live the life he wanted facing intolerance and a lack of understanding. Akwaeke Emezi is a storyteller who has created some wonderful characters who are carefully drawn out as each one gives their thoughts and views on Vivek.
An astonishingly good novel - highly recommended.
Great narration - that made me feel like I was there peering into the parlors and listening in on the conversations.

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African Writers Rock

An inspirational African story that tackles a topical issue from inside the life of a “regular” youth. Brave, witty, enchanting. Brilliant!

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I’m so pleased!

Such an amazing work from the writing to the performance. I can’t wait to discover more from this author

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The truest cry I've had in a while

This book was a secret Santa gift, given to me. And like Vivek's body, it was left with many questions on my porch. But I love the book and its sumptuous prose. I felt I got to know the main characters enough to feel invested in them. So, when I had my big ugly cry it was truly earned. Much respect to the author, Akwaeke Emezi, for crafting this and creating the right amount mystery to surprise me at times.

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Couldn’t stop listening!

This was a beautifully written story. In the end, I still had questions that were left unanswered, but also with the feeling that those questions don’t need to be answered for the story to be complete. The performance was beautifully done as well. I could feel the emotion in the voices of the narrators.