52 pages 1 hour read

Akwaeke Emezi

You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2022

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Summary and Study Guide


You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty is a romance novel by the writer and visual artist Akwaeke Emezi. While this is their first romance novel, they have won awards and nominations for their memoirs, YA novels, literary fiction, and poetry collections. Amazon recently purchased the film rights to You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty in conjunction with actor Michael B. Jordan, and a television series of her novel Freshwater is in development at FX. The novel follows a visual artist and young widow, Feyi Adekola, who is struggling to return to normal life after her husband’s death five years earlier. The man whom she is casually dating asks her to go to visit his celebrity chef father on a tropical island, and at the same time, she receives an opportunity to launch her art career by installing a piece in the national museum. When Feyi sees his father, however, she instantly falls for him and has to decide if she can move past her grief and how much she will give up for love.

This guide refers to the Atria Paperback 2022 edition.

Plot Summary

Twenty-nine-year-old artist Feyi and her best friend Joy are at a party. Feyi meets a man named Milan, and they have sex in a bathroom. It is the first time she has been with a man since her husband died five years ago. Feyi and Milan meet for sex for a few months but do not get to know each other beyond that. While at a bar with Milan’s friends, she meets Nasir, who seems to be interested in her. When Feyi breaks it off with Milan, Nasir immediately calls her. She agrees to dinner and tells him that her husband’s death makes it hard for her to have a relationship. He agrees to take it slow and be friends first. Her relationship with Nasir gets closer, and she shows him her studio and work. He offers to take her to visit his father on the island where he grew up. He says that the curator of the national museum there wants to show her work as part of an exhibit. They finally kiss for the first time.

Joy convinces Feyi to go. On the plane, Nasir tells her his father is a celebrity chef, Alim Blake, but cautions her he is different from his TV persona. Nasir mentions that his mother died when he was a small boy. When Feyi sees Alim Blake she instantly feels a deep attraction to him. His house is full of original art by artists Feyi loves, and the food he makes is delicious. She tells Nasir she is not feeling well enough to have dinner, but in truth, she is struggling with her feelings for Nasir’s father. The next morning, she encounters Alim over breakfast and notices he radiates power and security.

Another morning, Feyi wakes from a nightmare about her husband and goes down to the garden where she encounters Alim. They bond over stories about their deceased spouses. Alim asks her if she loves Nasir, and Feyi cannot answer. She goes back to her room, upset.

Alim’s daughter Lorraine comes to visit, and she and Nasir tease their dad about his sunrise hikes. Feyi volunteers to go despite having to wake up at 4:30 am. Alim admits that since his wife’s passing, he fell in love with a man, but his children gave him an ultimatum and he chose them. Feyi hugs him, feeling something between them, and Alim pulls away. Feyi tries not to be embarrassed and tells him she also fell for Joy, but she did not feel the same way.

Nasir takes her to his old family home in town and Feyi meets the famous curator of the museum and works on her installation. She goes back up the mountain to Alim’s house to prepare and finds him alone in his test kitchen. They do not speak, but he holds out a finger with mousse on it, and she puts it in her mouth. He reciprocates, and Feyi gets flustered and leaves.

The night of the opening, Feyi looks beautiful and people find her work powerful. Alim reads the artist’s statement and seems touched by her tribute to her husband. Back at the house he has arranged a dinner for her with artists and people from the museum. A wealthy collector named Pooja commissions a piece from Feyi and offers to pay for her to stay on the island until she is finished.

Nasir announces he must leave for work for a week and Joy tries to discourage Feyi from staying with Alim alone. The afternoon Nasir leaves, they begin kissing in the kitchen when Alim corrects her knife technique. He carries her to his bedroom, and they talk about what they are feeling and Alim’s family. Nothing happens sexually, but Feyi begins to share his bed, deciding to hold off on any sexual activity until they can talk to Nasir. Joy is worried about Feyi but ultimately supports her. Alim has an outbuilding cleared so she can use it as her studio while she is there.

While on the phone with Joy, Nasir storms in, furious because a family friend mentioned seeing his father kissing a young woman. He throws her things and tells her to get out of his house. Alim comes home and chastises his son for acting violently, and when Nasir insists Feyi leave, Alim tells him it is his house, not Nasir’s. Nasir leaves and Alim cleans up his son’s mess. That night, Feyi wakes up with another nightmare about her husband and they hold each other and tell stories about their deceased spouses until the morning.

Feyi goes to town to meet Pooja for lunch to discuss the commission. She learns that Pooja lost a child to leukemia. They talk about messiness and madness being a part of life. The security guard at the museum calls Feyi and says Nasir is at the museum. Feyi confronts him in the security guard’s office. She tells him to never mess with her work or career again and that her wedding ring and blood are in that exhibit he was disrespecting. He apologizes but is still angry.

Lorraine comes to the house and confronts her father about what he is doing while Feyi waits upstairs. She hears Lorraine call her a groupie and a gold digger and plead with him to make her leave. When Lorraine leaves, Alim goes on a run and Feyi cooks him a grilled cheese sandwich, wanting to make him feel taken care of. He is pleasantly surprised and jokes with her about faking her poor cutting technique to seduce him.

Pooja helps Feyi tear material as they cry with rage. Feyi then adds the material to the canvas. Pooja and Alim both give Feyi items their loved ones wore to add to her piece. Feyi and Alim hike back up the mountain for another sunrise where they make love for the first time.

Feyi finishes her piece and is happy with it. She gets a surprise call from Milan, who has heard from Nasir about what is happening. Milan says Nasir is his friend, but he has not suffered the way they have, and so he is not necessarily the best match for her. Feyi is surprised and touched. Feyi talks with Nasir alone. He is still furious, but when Feyi explains that Alim makes her feel like she has another chance at being happy again, he understands that their love is linked by grief for his mother and her husband. He tells Feyi she should tell Alim she loves him. Feyi is startled by this.

She spends some time on the grounds, acknowledging that she wants to go home. She calls Joy and confesses that she is worried, but Joy says if it is real, their love will survive outside the bubble. She tells Alim she is in love with him, but she also wants to go back to New York. He asks if he can come to New York with her because he loves her too, and she says she does not know how it will work. He says it does not matter because they have time.

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By Akwaeke Emezi