Use these discussion questions to guide your next meeting.
ABOUT THE BOOK
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.
THE DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
“They burned down the market on the day Vivek Oji died.” The novel begins in the aftermath of Vivek Oji’s death, despite his being the titular character. How did knowing that Vivek has already died shape your reading experience? What is suggested by framing the book in this way?
In the second chapter, the narrator tells us that this story could be told through a stack of photographs. Near the end of the book, Osita and the girls visit Kavita with a stack of photographs to tell Vivek’s story. How are these stacks of photographs connected? Did you draw any meaning from the use of photographs, as opposed to words or physical mementos?
As Vivek grows more uncomfortable with his family at home, hefinds solace with the daughters of the Nigerwives. What actions do the girls take to make Vivek feel comfortable and secure? If a biological family is unable to accept a child, can friendships be a sufficient replacement?