Feyi succeeds in this mission with a stranger from the roof. She has sex with him for a few months, then stops, eventually finding herself in an ambiguous relationship with Nasir, her friend. Nasir is captivated by Feyi; Feyi wants to take things slowly. Renouncing to propose a romance, Nasir instead puts Feyi in contact with a leading curator who wishes to present his work in an upcoming group exhibition.
Nasir takes Feyi to her family’s lavish home on a Caribbean island, where she remains his guest while setting up her exhibit. She also meets Nasir’s father, Alim, a prominent leader with a grief of his own. The two recognize each other as fellow mourners – then, against their will, as potentially much more. Neither wants to hurt Nasir, and yet. “I always feel lonely,” Feyi tells a friend, and she knows Alim does too. With him, she found someone with whom to be “alone next door”. And so, Feyi and Alim rejoice: “Because Feyi was Feyi and she was alive, there was no way she could say no.”
“You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty” is an unabashed ode to living with and in spite of pain and mortality. I love this book’s understanding of how grief can merge with elation and how loss can spark possession. It’s also wildly, deliciously queer, featuring, hallelujah, so many characters who weren’t straight that I had a hard time remembering if anyone was even straight.
Emezi’s latest novel is a shift in prose genre and style from their previous work, and it might particularly appeal to people who, living through a pandemic of isolation that has accelerated loss, crave more joy. to live. “Ghosts were always sudden,” Feyi thinks, and in this book, love is too. Joy too.