Feyi succeeds in this mission with a stranger from the roof. She has sex with him for a few months, then stops and eventually ends up in an ambiguous relationship with Nasir, his friend. Nasir is captivated by Feyi; Feyi wants to take it easy. Nasir stops proposing romance and instead puts Feyi in touch with a prominent curator who wants to feature her work in an upcoming group show.
Nasir takes Feyi to his family’s lavish home on a Caribbean island, where she remains as his guest while she installs her exhibit. She also meets Nasir’s father, Alim, an eminent chef with a lasting grief. The two recognize each other as fellow grievers — and then, against both of them, as potentially much more. Neither of them wants to hurt Nasir, and yet. “I always feel alone,” Feyi tells a friend, and she knows that Alim does too. With him she has found someone to be “alone next to.” And so Feyi and Alim reach for joy: “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 strong grief can become entangled in elation, and how loss can provoke possession. It’s also riotous, wonderfully queer, with, 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 departure in genre and prose style from their earlier work, and it might especially appeal to those living through an isolating pandemic that has accelerated loss and hunger for more zest for life. “The ghosts were always sudden,” Feyi thinks, and so is love in this book. So is joy.