Finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award for a Debut Novel
Shortlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize
A New York Times Notable Book
One of the most highly praised novels of the year, the debut from an astonishing young writer, Freshwater tells the story of Ada, an unusual child who is a source of deep concern to her southern Nigerian family. Young Ada is troubled, prone to violent fits. Born “with one foot on the other side,” she begins to develop separate selves within her as she grows into adulthood. And when she travels to America for college, a traumatic event on campus crystallizes the selves into something powerful and potentially dangerous, making Ada fade into the background of her own mind as these alters—now protective, now hedonistic—move into control. Written with stylistic brilliance and based in the author’s realities, Freshwater dazzles with ferocious energy and serpentine grace.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
We came from somewhere—everything does. When the transition is made from spirit to flesh, the gates are meant to be closed. It’s a kindness. It would be cruel not to. Perhaps the gods forgot; they can be absentminded like that. Not maliciously—at least, not usually. But these are gods, after all, and they don’t care about what happens to flesh, mostly because it is so slow and boring, unfamiliar and coarse. They don’t pay much attention to it, except when it is collected, organized and souled.
By the time she (our body) struggled out into the world, slick and louder than a village of storms, the gates were left open. We should have been anchored in her by then, asleep inside her membranes and synched with her mind. That would have been the safest way. But since the gates were open, not closed against remembrance, we became confused. We were at once old and newborn. We were her and yet not. We were not conscious but we were alive—in fact, the main problem was that we were a distinct we instead of being fully and just her.
So there she was: a fat baby with thick, wet black hair. And there we were, infants in this world, blind and hungry, partly clinging to her flesh and the rest of us trailing behind in streams, through the open gates. We’ve always wanted to think that it was a careless thing the gods did, rather than a deliberate neglect. But what we think barely matters, even being who we are to them: their child.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
"She was a question wrapped up in a breath. How do you survive when they place a god inside your body." Freshwater is a novel unlike anything I have ever read which is something that rarely happens in my reading life. It took me a long time to really sink into this story due to the fact that there is a lot of dense perspective to get through but I am incredibly glad that I stuck with it because the complexities blended beautifully into a unique perspective of a woman (Ada) with dissociative identity disorder which is narrated by the different personalities themselves. The slightly disjointed feel to the story would traditionally be a pain point in my reading process but, in this case, it perfectly reflected the fracture of Ada's soul into these unique personalities and it worked seamlessly into the narrative. This book will take you deep into many trigger worthy issues like sexual assault and suicide so please keep these things in mind before you crack the spine on this novel. That said, when you let yourself into The Ada's world, you will be afraid that you will not get back out. Thank you goes out to Grove Press, Akwaeke Emezi and Netgalley for and advance copy of Freshwater in exchange for an honest review.
I'm so happy that I found this book. I feel dreamy and otherworldly.
I've been trying to write this review for a while now and for some reason it just feels daunting. At first I couldn't figure out why, but I think it's in part because Akwaeke has such a deft mastery of the written word that anything I could say about her book would pale in comparison to the story itself. How do I talk about something that is so unlike anything I've ever read and spoke to me on levels I didn't even know existed within myself? The story surrounds a woman who we know as Ada, following her journey from each of her births. You see, she is of one body, but many selves. The first part of the book is told by "we," entities without any real names that live within her flesh. Akwaeke made a point to say that the selves are plural and singular, and more importantly they are both at the same time. I believe many people who approach Freshwater from a strictly Western point of view may have difficulty wrapping their heads around it, but the complexity and fluidity of Ada's mind was incredibly enjoyable to me. Ada faces many struggles and traumas throughout her life. When she is young it surrounds her family and troubles at home, and then once she leaves her home in Nigeria for college in the U.S., it becomes about her own relationships with lovers (both male and female). As she further removes herself from her culture, we also see her having to negotiate her reality through a completely different lens. And even though she visits a therapist, mental illness isn't really the point here. In fact, trying to talk about this book in terms of physical space just seems irrelevant since almost all of it is happening inside Ada's mind. Because of this, outside dialogue is rather limited. This is a character-driven novel in every sense and this allows Akwaeke a freedom to play with prose in some of the most wonderful ways. (Also! This was written in English, but there are distinctly not-English words and phrases that aren't translated! A personal favorite feature of mine.) This is a truly lyrical and engrossing debut and Akwaeke's talent cannot be overstated. For those ready and willing to read books that play with edges and experiment with realities, I urge you to pick up Freshwater. trigger warnings: rape, self harm, attempted suicide
An amazing debut novel! Freshwater will draw you into the life of Ada and her other selves. This story mesmerized me and kept me reading. Masterful story telling and certainly unlike anything I’ve read before. This novel will make you look beyond the surface and you’ll find yourself thinking of the fractured pieces of yourself. The mythology in the story was so brilliantly written that I honestly started to wonder if there was perhaps some truth to some of these beliefs. Great job! I cannot wait to see what this author will do next. ✊✊✊✊ **I was given an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review**
Their prayers have been heard and the god Ala sent them a baby girl: Ada, named in honour of the generous goddess. Yet, it comes with a plus, Ada is not alone, she has got some characters living in her mind, still asleep, but eager to wake up and take over the body given to them. The first two to arrive and take care of Ada and her siblings in their Nigerian village. Later, in America, when another of the voices awakes and takes over control over Ada‘s body, things turn out differently. For the world outside, it is hidden what is going on inside Ada‘s head, once she tries to tell a therapist, however, the voices that possess her are stronger and find a way out of this dangerous situation. Akwaeke Emezi‘s novel „Freshwater“ was all but easy to read for me. First of all, I had some difficulty understanding who is telling the story, it took me some time to figure out that the voices in Ada‘s head are the narrators. So, we are mostly inside her mind, but sometimes we get what happens outside, too. You cannot really say that Ada is mad even though she hears voices and follows their command. It was especially when she hurt herself to calm down the first two voices, Smoke and Shadow, that was hard to endure. The third who made her act promiscuously wasn‘t much better. They are evil, after all, misusing an innocent human to fulfil their wishes and greed. I am not sure if it works like this with people hearing voices, even if it is somewhat different, this seems to be horrible. On the other hand, Ada obviously experienced some very bad incidents and the voices were somehow able to split those memories from her normal memory thus making her forget these experiences. Maybe this is the cause why the voices could develop after all. It is always hard to like a novel if you detest the protagonist or narrator. Thus, „Freshwater“ is not a novel I could fall for easily. Still, I consider the topic highly interesting and, ultimately, the author found a convincing way of making the voices heard for us.