26 Oct / The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi [in Booklist]
With only a few audiobook credits each, Yetide Badaki and Chukwudi Iwuji might be considered audiobook newbies. Their extensive acting experience however – especially Iwuji with his substantial work on British stages – ensures that Nigerian-born, award-winning literary darling Akweke Emezi’s sophomore adult title (Freshwater, 2018) resonates. Once again exploring identity, sexuality, gender, religion, and mental illness, Emezi opens with a single-line first-chapter elucidation of her title: “They burned down the market on the day Vivek Oji died.” The young man makes his final journey home as a naked corpse, “delivered … like a parcel, like a gift, a bloody surprise.”
Alternating between gender lines (rather ironic by book’s end), Badaki and Iwuji enliven the extended circles of Vivek’s family and friends in wonderfully clipped rhythms. Vivek is the mixed-race child of Nigerian local Chika and Delhi-born Kavita, whose closest attachment is to cousin Osita, the son of Chika’s older brother Ekene and wife Mary. Prone to mysterious spells, Vivek was never so-called “normal.” Chika sent him to military school to “toughen up,” and Mary abused him with her religion, but Osita understood him best.
Together, Badaki and Iwuji reveal Vivek’s brief life – in order to expose his death. Badaki haunts as mourning Kavita and chills as rigid Mary. Iwuji enthralls as the cousins, effortlessly individuating the devoted pair. An already unforgettable title begets an enthralling aural enhancement.