Book Review: Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi.


Book Review: Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi.

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.

Book Details

Book Review: Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi.

Format: 229 pages, Hardcover.

Published: February 13, 2018 by Grove Press.

ISBN: 9780802127358 (ISBN10: 0802127355).

Language: English.

My Review of Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi.

I have picked this book so many times in the past, but have never read past the second page, because of its ambiguity.

To be honest, if you are not patient, you will lose interest in this book early. It’s not the regular kind of book that you can grasp from the beginning. It requires patience.

And once you have successfully moved past the first few chapters, then you can finally enjoy it.

Thankfully, I listened to the audiobook version on Scribd narrated by the author, and so it aided my understanding, and helped me enjoy the book better.

This book is an autobiographical fiction of the author, Akwaeke Emezi. I have read Dear Senthuran and it helped me understand the author, but Freshwater gave me a better view inside their life.

This is a book about Ada, a young Nigerian woman, and how she navigates life. It starts from way before she was born, and how she would later be prayed into existence.

Ada’s human parents, Saachi and Saul have always wanted a baby girl, and they would fervently pray for one.

And according to the book, when one constantly pray for something, the spirits would hearken and then answer the prayer.

Book Review: Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi.

This is how the spirits would listen to and answer Saachi and Saul’s prayer, and bless them with a baby girl, Ada.

But Ada is not a normal child. She is a god, an ogbanje, a child who lives to die. An ogbanje, in Igbo mythology, is a spirit child that dies and comes back, only to die again. They have no business with long life, as they only live for a short period of time and then die.

So, when the god takes the human form, and becomes Ada, her brothersisters would not approve.

They would want her to come back to them. There is no reason for a god to take the form of human flesh, and stay in the human world for so long. But Ada would stay.

Book Review: Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi.

Ada would not have it easy growing up. Her family would soon become dysfunctional, as Saachi and Saul would disagree over a whole lot of things. And then Saachi would leave, for her sake, for her mental health.

This wouldn’t make it easier for Ada too, because it is very difficult to cope in a broken home, where the mother, who is a much better parent is thousands of miles away from you. Saul does not really bother much about the kids, Ada inclusive.

He would only be interested in what pleases him, like taking the chieftaincy title, and I think this indifference takes a major toll in Ada’s mental health.

At the young age of sixteen, Ada would leave Nigeria to go to college in America, and this is where the manifestation of her selves begin.

After encountering a sexual, traumatic event, she would cry out one of her selves into existence, to save her. And this is when Asughara is born.

Book Review: Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi.

Ada has the multiple personality disorder, with two other selves living inside her, Asughara and Saint Vincent. Each coming out and taking over her whenever it pleases them.

She would have a very difficult life coping with these two personalities. Asughara is fierce and does not give a damn about what anyone thinks or says, and whenever she takes over Ada’s body, she wreaks havoc with a reckless abandon and lands her in trouble.

She is the exact opposite of Ada. While Saint Vincent brings out the masculinity in her.

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Final words

Book Review: Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi.

This book explores the discovery of selves, and how to manage these selves without finally giving in to insanity.

I cannot even imagine the terror of having your body taken over at will, without you having a say of whatever action you take.

This is what happens when you trap a god to a body. Ada should not have been born.

She should have remained in the other side with her brothersisters. But she is born, with one of her feet stamped in the other side.

Book Review: Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi.

This book becomes mind-blowing and interesting when you really delve into it. If only you have the patience of giving it a chance.

I have read many Akwaeke’s books, but this is the most difficult to face, because of the eccentric topics it explores.

In as much as I enjoyed this book, I still have some things I do not understand.

Like the times Ada would speak to Yeshua. I do not know if she has that conversation with Jesus Christ, the Christian God, or another spirit with similar name.

I would recommend you give this book a chance, if you have a thing for Igbo mythology, multiple personality disorder, and LGBTQ. Your interest in the aforementioned topics would help you enjoy the book better.

I would rate it as 4/5. Have you read the book? What do you think about it? Please share your thoughts with me in the comment section.

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Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

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