Author: Akwaeke Emezi
Publisher: Grove Press
Page Count: 229
Publication Date: 2018
Category/Genre: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Cultural, Africa, LGBT, Magic Realism, Mental Health, Fantasy, Nigeria
Good Reads Rating: ★★★★☆ (4.02)
My Rating: ★★★★☆(4)
An extraordinary debut novel, Freshwater explores the surreal experience of having a fractured self. It centers around a young Nigerian woman, Ada, who develops separate selves within her as a result of being born “with one foot on the other side.” Unsettling, heartwrenching, dark, and powerful, Freshwater is a sharp evocation of a rare way of experiencing the world, one that illuminates how we all construct our identities.
Ada begins her life in the south of Nigeria as a troubled baby and a source of deep concern to her family. Her parents, Saul and Saachi, successfully prayed her into existence, but as she grows into a volatile and splintered child, it becomes clear that something went terribly awry. When Ada comes of age and moves to America for college, the group of selves within her grows in power and agency. A traumatic assault leads to a crystallization of her alternate selves: Asụghara and Saint Vincent. As Ada fades into the background of her own mind and these selves–now protective, now hedonistic–move into control, Ada’s life spirals in a dark and dangerous direction.
Narrated by the various selves within Ada and based in the author’s realities, Freshwater dazzles with ferocious energy and serpentine grace, heralding the arrival of a fierce new literary voice.
Akwaeke Emezi’s Freshwater is a novel of a young Nigerian girl coming to age with multiple personalities and prolonged trauma.
Told from the perspective of a host of spirits called ogbanje, they occupy the protagonist’s body and exert strong control over her actions. These spirits are malevolent and seek comfort and joy in disruption, pain and chaos.
“We understood what was necessary -humans often fail at listening, as if their stubbornness will convince the truth to change, as if they have that kind of power. They do, however, understand forceful things, cruelties–they obey those.”
It is full of layers that are often non-linear and almost always forceful and harrowing, but written so eloquently and beautiful I sometimes felt my soul weeping in empathy.
I haven’t read anything else like Freshwater before and am very curious to read more from Emezi.