No easy way to forget lost love: A review of Akwaeke Emezi’s “You Made A Fool of Death With Your Beauty” — Olukorede S. Yishau
An accident happens and Jonah dies. He dies in the presence of Feyi, his young wife. Five years speed by and Feyi can’t get Jonah and the circumstances of his death out of her mind. She sees him often in her dreams and she sees him in her mind. She just sees him everywhere and believes it is impossible to move on. The will to move on eludes her until the journey to healing starts on a day she decides to throw caution in the wind and have casual sex with a stranger named Milan in a toilet at a rooftop party.
It is just sex, no commitment, no nothing. She ends it after more rounds of nothing but hot sex. Along the line, Milan’s friend, Nasir, takes interest in her and not even her sexcapades will deter him. First he seeks friendship. With time they share a kiss and do other make out stuff but no sex. It looks like it is a matter of time before they will have sex and live happily ever after. Time, however, has other not-so-funny plans.
At a point, Nasir decides to take her to the beautiful Caribbean Island where he grew up, where his father still lives and where his only sister, Lorraine, also lives. She is to be part of a major art exhibition where greats are to be showcased. It is an offer she finds irresistible and will mark a shift in her life. Nasir keeps some details of the trip to himself and he reveals them bit by bit. Her first shock is discovering that Nasir’s father is Alim Blake, a renowned chef and a regular face on a major television cooking show.
Alim comes to pick them up at the airport and before the end of their first day on his mountain home, Feyi knows she is in trouble. When Alim breathes, she catches cold, when he sneezes, she freezes, when he coughs, her eyes water, when he talks, she melts and when he snores, she falls asleep. There is almost nothing he does that she doesn’t feel sweet discomforts in her heart. Her best friend warns her about the danger of her feelings but she is too far gone to think straight.
Her exhibition goes well and there she gets a major commission for an art work and this means having to stay longer on the Island and having to stay more around Alim. Work soon takes Nasir away for some period and the stage seems set for a calamity of major proportions.
In a nutshell, this is the gist of the seventh book and the first romance novel by Akwaeke Emezi. Beautifully titled You Made A Fool of Death With Your Beauty, this novel packs a punch. The language is smooth, the style is enchanting and the plot twist is alluring. Suspense is a trick Emezi uses so well in this book that is crazily immersive. If you attempt to predict how a crisis will come, this author has a way of double crossing you and showing up in another way that leaves you with no choice but to salute her storytelling prowess.
Emezi writes about broken people so well. If you are looking for saints, this is not a book for you. Almost everyone in this book lives a duplicitous life. There is something they’re not proud to go public with. And the grace with which the novelist presents them is non-judgmental. It is up to the reader to decide what to make of each of them and their decisions.
This is a book about grief and how there is no manual to deal with it and the mistakes human beings make while handling grief. Feyi deals with it in her own way. Alim deals with his his own way. His children deal with their mother’s passing in unique ways. Pooja’s loss of her daughter is also a study on how differently people deal with grief. And Milan’s loss of a child makes him understand Feyi and not judge her. But, as unique as the approaches they all adapt, something sticks out: No easy way to forget a loved one, especially one taken away in a violent manner like drowning in water and dying in a car crash and being snatched by leukemia, the cancer that sees nothing else to attack than the blood.
The novel tells of how grieving people in search of healing tend to bond in search of answers to the questions or posers death throws their way. And how with time, they learn to mask the pains that come with unending grief. It tells of the brave choices love forces on human beings and their costs and the sweetness at the end of the tunnel.
It is also a story of love, love in unusual places and unusual manners and with unusual people. It is also about queerness and the battle that comes with it.
In this novel set in New York, the city that perhaps holds the ace as a setting for most American-centric novels, Emezi manages to downplay sociology and focuses on the characters and their actions and inaction. The great city stays in the background for the characters to shine in all their glories and horrors. Even the beautiful Caribbean Island that is also a setting stays on the periphery. What shines all through are the characters and the plot.
Dialogues are a major strength of this work. They are so realistic and having them immersed within lyrical and groovy prose is a thing of joy.
There is something you need to be warned about this book: Its last seven pages are intense, so intense you are likely to close it to catch your breath before trying to grasp what is going on. It is like saving the best for the last, it is like conflict at its best and it is like resolution at its solemness, it is everything, everything good. It will make you shake, it can make you pant, it can make you cry and it can make you soar. It is difficult to predict all the emotions it can evoke.
With this novel, Emezi has once more stamped her feet as a fantastic storyteller, a storyteller to always watch out for every tale she tells, a storyteller who knows the nitty-gritty of powerful and beautiful writing, a storyteller of no mean standing.
This novel is Akwaeke Emezi’s delicious romance delicacy worth relishing bit by bit, morsel by morsel and cartilage by cartilage.