I knew I loved this book by the end of the first chapter. Dark magical realism, narrated from the otherworldly perspective of a chorus of minor gods trapped in the mind of a young woman. It's not going to be for everyone, but I thought it was phenomenal. Recommended By Hayley H., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
An Indie Next Selection
Named One of the Best Books to Read This Winter by Elle
Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2018 by Esquire, the Huffington Post, Electric Lit, the Millions, Bitch, The Rumpus, Bustle, Shondaland, the Toronto Star, and Book Riot
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 from the perspective of the various selves within Ada, and based in the author's realities, Freshwater explores the metaphysics of identity and mental health, plunging the reader into the mystery of being and self. Freshwater dazzles with ferocious energy and serpentine grace, heralding the arrival of a fierce new literary voice.
“In her mind-blowing debut, Emezi weaves traditional Igbo myth that turns the well-worn narrative of mental illness on its head, and in doing so she has ensured a place on the literary-fiction landscape as a writer to watch . . . Emezi’s brilliance lies not just in her expert handling of the conflicting voices in Ada’s head but in delivering an entirely different perspective on just what it means to go slowly mad. Complex and dark, this novel will simultaneously challenge and reward lovers of literary fiction. A must-read.” Booklist (starred review)
“Wow. The net effect is a feeling of being peeled open, and quickly finding that skinless place to be normal. More than any novel I can remember, it feels utterly present to the place we are in the world.” Binyavanga Wainaina, author of One Day I Will Write About This Place
“Freshwater is sheer perfection: sexy, sensual, spiritual, wise. One of the most dazzling debuts I’ve ever read.” Taiye Selasi, Guardian
“Akwaeke Emezi’s standout first novel, Freshwater, is a riveting and peculiar variation on coming of age . . . The poetics of Emezi’s prose enhance the mythology she evokes. As enchanting as it is unsettling, Freshwater tickles all six senses. The chorus of voices narrating Ada’s life achieves a remarkable balance between cruel machinations of cavalier deities and deep empathy for the distressed vessel they inhabit . . . dazzling.”―Shelf Awareness
A National Book Foundation "5 Under 35" Honoree
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
An extraordinary debut novel exploring the metaphysics of identity and mental health, centering on a young Nigerian woman as she struggles to reconcile the proliferation of multiple selves within her
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.
About the Author
Akwaeke Emezi is an Igbo and Tamil writer and artist based in liminal spaces. Born and raised in Nigeria, she received her MPA from New York University and was awarded a 2015 Miles Morland Writing Scholarship. She won the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Africa. Her work has been published in various literary magazines, including Granta. Freshwater is her debut novel.