Akwaeke Emezi's YOU MADE A FOOL OF DEATH WITH YOUR BEAUTY - Finding Love Amid Grief
by Ashley Dickson-Ellison (@teachingtheapocalypse)
I read Akwaeke Emezi's You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm) recently, and I was totally captivated by this moving story. (I actually listened to this on audio, and it is narrated by Bahni Turpin, who is one of my all-time favorite audiobook narrators!) This is the story of Feyi Adekola and her journey to be present in her life again. Five years earlier, she and her husband were in a car crash shortly after their marriage; her young husband Jonas did not survive.
Feyi is an artist and has been tentatively creating work since that cataclysmic event, but her life has largely been on hold. She's had her beloved friend Joy as her companion in Brooklyn where they live together, but beyond that, she has kept her world and herself very small. The novel focuses on Feyi's gradual unfolding after so many years of holding herself tight.
“I think we're just figuring out how to survive a world on fire... that it's okay to be alive.”
Early on in the book she meets Milan, and they embark on a physical relationship - her first one since Jonas's death. Although that doesn't become more serious, it does begin to open the door to the larger world for Feyi, and she meets Nasir, who discovers her amazing artistic talent and offers her a rare opportunity to show her work at a prestigious event in the Caribbean. When she arrives, events unfold that will change her life as a forbidden attraction sparks a fire within her.
I love watching Feyi discover what it means to live for herself. Her art and her journey are both so transformative, but the path is not easy. Emezi shows the complexity of grief and the ways that it changes over time while never leaving us. This novel is a beautiful love story, but at its core is a woman finding her way back to herself.
"She was hers; she was alive; there was so much to do."
For those doing the Unabridged Reading Challenge for 2023, this one is perfect for category about food—cooking is a central (and delicious!) part of this book.
A note to readers: Emezi's books often look at challenging parts of our world. Emezi writes open-door scenes with explicit language, and they take on serious topics addressing what can be triggering events. I love their work; I find that I think about the books long after I've read them.
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