Freshwater

Freshwater

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 t...

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Title:Freshwater
Author:Akwaeke Emezi
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Freshwater Reviews

  • Hannah

    This was absolutely stunning. From the very first page I knew I was in for something extraordinary and unlike anything I have ever read. This debut combines many things I adore in books: unconventional framing and unreliable narrators, a story that gets recontextualized constantly and kept me on my toes, a basis in mythology that informed but did not over-shadow the actual story, perfect sentence structure that packs an unbelievable punch, and so many more things that I am still struggling to ad

    This was absolutely stunning. From the very first page I knew I was in for something extraordinary and unlike anything I have ever read. This debut combines many things I adore in books: unconventional framing and unreliable narrators, a story that gets recontextualized constantly and kept me on my toes, a basis in mythology that informed but did not over-shadow the actual story, perfect sentence structure that packs an unbelievable punch, and so many more things that I am still struggling to adequately talk about.

    This is Ada’s story, or more accurately Ada’s and her other personalities’ story. The first part is told in a we-perspective from her alternate personalities, brothersisters based in Nigerian mythology, that frame her story in what that means to them rather than her. The Ada, as she is called by them, then moves to the US where a traumatic events leads to a further fragmentation of self, Asụghara and Saint Vincent who will take over more and more. These two selves are even more different to her than the brothersisters were and tend to wreck havoc in her life. This description does not really do the book any justice because more than a straightforward narrative, the story unfolds forward and backwards with things happening (or not?) and is highly introspective. As I was wondering about the timeline, Akwaeke Emezi pulled the rug under me more often than I could count, leaving my head spinning and my heart broken.

    I do not think I can do this book justice, but believe me when I say that this is an extraordinary achievement and unlike anything I read before. This will for sure stay with me and keep me thinking for months to come.

    _________

    I received an arc of this book courtesy of NetGalley and Grove Press in exchange for an honest review.

    You can find this review and other thoughts on

  • PattyMacDotComma

    5★ DEBUT!

    5★ DEBUT!

    Outstanding, mesmerising, poetically macabre and believably unbelievable. “The Ada”, as her captive spirits refer to her, is never alone. Her constant mental companions are spirits which should have been able to possess and influence her and then come and go at will, through the gates, across the bridge.

    But not these mischievous, evil beings. The gods closed the gates behind them, so they lead The Ada into all sorts of trouble, both in Nigeria where she was born, and which has a tradition of

    possessing children, and in the US when her family migrates.

    The ogbanje are reminiscent of the scary faeries at the bottom of the garden (Ireland’s Little People who steal children and some adults and leave changelings in their place), the witches of the witch trials, poltergeists, and malevolent voodoo spirits. She befriends a girl familiar with the voodoo traditions, too.

    Ada grows up, and a little like the well-known

    , has a split personality, influenced not only by the first two WE who were born with her, but also by a wild and naughty girl, Asughara, who is "born" when Ada first has sex. A real troublemaker, but sometimes Ada enjoys the excuse to cut loose.

    Speaking of cutting, she does that, too, “feeding” her demons, as it were. The only way they can enjoy more lives is to escape this life and cross back over, as they were supposed to do.

    But remember? The gates closed behind them, so you know what that means? Who’s the bridge? Their “host” body, that's who, and while Ada/Asughara bounces from lover to anorexia to psychiatric ward and back again, they all have conversations with her, and they may even hug her somehow. Sometimes she feels safest "inside" with them.

    She survives the American college experience, the club scene, pubs, you name it. She/they have an active social and love life and don’t miss much!

    It’s a wonderful read and I found it absolutely compelling.

    I especially enjoyed this author’s thank you to award-winning Nigerian author,

    :

    Emezi obviously got it right. AND THIS IS A DEBUT!!!

    Thanks to NetGalley and Grove Press for the review copy from which I’ve quoted, so quotes may be changed.

    This isn't due for publication until February 2018 but is available on NetGalley until then, so I’m posting my review early to encourage other reviewers to have a look.

    UPDATE:

  • Evelina | AvalinahsBooks

    It's like a pool of dark water that you don't really even want to get out of. And I was sad when the book finished - despite it being quite a violent and shaking experience. I am not lying when I say I intend to read it again.

    This review is quite long, so I suggest reading it

    It's like a pool of dark water that you don't really even want to get out of. And I was sad when the book finished - despite it being quite a violent and shaking experience. I am not lying when I say I intend to read it again.

    This review is quite long, so I suggest reading it

    I chose to read it as magical realism. Keep that in mind when you read this review. And it's not that things change based on how you read it - it's that your understanding of the story changes. So let's pause a moment here to consider how amazing a story must be, if it can have two layers like that. That's partly why I want to reread it.

    particularly - novels where a character like that isn't just written off as 'not quite all there'.

    This is something that I would like to see more often in literature, when it comes to mental health.

    While reading this, and knowing none of the author's backstory, I kept wondering if this is how it really is for people with multiple personalities. I know I'm probably a bad reviewer for not looking this up and considering the book simply on its own, but regardless of whether it's well researched or actually experienced by the author or someone close to them,

    Don't get me wrong - nothing that she goes through is even remotely rosy or beautiful. It's all dark, messed up and very painful. But

    And that's why I loved this.

    That was an amazing concept to wrap my mind around. Imagining how such dynamics would shape a person, affect their growth. Like a dark fairytale, where you can have your wish granted, but at a price you can't even fathom - one cannot be a powerful, ageless being and not pay a price. Seeing and explaining mental health problems through the prism of demons and old gods might not always work in our reality, but it's an incredible concept -

    This is a battle between the old, shamanistic worldview, and the modern scientific one.

    Maybe it should worry me that I could relate to a character who had life threatening mental illness? But I believe that you could as well.

    Maybe you won't develop a new personality branch, but it's easy to say you won't be the same person as you were before the event. It was an incredible experience having these ideas put in my mind, ideas I've never pondered before.

    You might have noticed that I'm not talking about

    bit too much. Partly, it's because I wanted my review to focus on the mental health bit (and I can't confirm whether that part is #OwnVoices or not), and partly it's because it's not really my place to talk too much about the PoC part of #OwnVoices. But yes - it's totally there. There is talk about race, about what it means to be from another place, to lose your roots.

    The whole mythology bit is steeped in wonderful names, legends and religious lore of Nigeria.

    Nothing with these tough topics could be free of them - and this book has

    You name it. Well, I don't think it contains murder or animal abuse, but that's about it.

    I'm surprised that it wasn't hard to find some recommendations that are connected in at least one way or another.

    is a memoir of a First Nations/Native American woman struggling with mental illness and her place in the world,

    is about a child who ends up being haunted by his grandfather's spirit over old secrets of the past, also related to the indigenous - and this is similar both because of the 'your roots' themes, and the double personality, or someone else's personality inhabiting your mind.

    doesn't exactly have the personalities theme, but it has a lot to say about mental illness, and is both #OwnVoices and talks a lot about Black Culture. And

    perhaps the most different of all of these, also meshes magical realism with mental illness, and also talks about bodily harm.

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  • Rachel

    It's hard to talk about something that has no precedent.

    is utterly unique, and the result is breathtaking. It's a dark, sensual, and thoughtful novel about a young woman coming to terms with and accepting the multiple identities that define her.

    The details of Ada's life - raised in Nigeria, relocated to the U.S. for college - are only an elemental framework for what is ultimately an introspective story. The majority of this book is narrated by a chorus of Ada's selves - conceptualize

    It's hard to talk about something that has no precedent.

    is utterly unique, and the result is breathtaking. It's a dark, sensual, and thoughtful novel about a young woman coming to terms with and accepting the multiple identities that define her.

    The details of Ada's life - raised in Nigeria, relocated to the U.S. for college - are only an elemental framework for what is ultimately an introspective story. The majority of this book is narrated by a chorus of Ada's selves - conceptualized as Nigerian ogbanje - until a traumatic assault in college causes two of these selves to take shape, as Asụghara and Saint Vincent.

    What I found so stimulating about this novel is that it challenged a lot of my conceptions about health and identity, particularly in how these are often so heavily informed by western culture. The perceived objectivity of psychology is something I've always found comforting and taken for granted, but with this book, I'm reminded of the significance of the relationship between culture and identity. Steeped in Igbo folklore,

    chronicles Ada's journey (and Emezi's, as the book is informed by a lot of autobiographical elements) in a way that's challenging, unexpected, and beautiful.

    Emezi's prose is so assured and lyrical it's hard to believe this is a debut. This is an author to watch and a novel that absolutely everyone should read.

  • Elyse

    When I got the depths of this novel, here during these dark hours, I was blown away! My eyes were misty at the end.

    It’s absolutely the most brilliant creative book written of its kind ....

    It became personal to me....looking back at my own journey- my own struggles - my own fight - my own growth - my own inner peace.

    At one point I kept thinking,

    “No wonder it’s soooo hard for people to get well”.

    “No wonder people repeat the same repetitive unwanted behaviors for years”.

    I don’t usually write revie

    When I got the depths of this novel, here during these dark hours, I was blown away! My eyes were misty at the end.

    It’s absolutely the most brilliant creative book written of its kind ....

    It became personal to me....looking back at my own journey- my own struggles - my own fight - my own growth - my own inner peace.

    At one point I kept thinking,

    “No wonder it’s soooo hard for people to get well”.

    “No wonder people repeat the same repetitive unwanted behaviors for years”.

    I don’t usually write reviews on my iPhone from bed -

    I’m usually not ‘this’ vague about the story either. But honestly it’s best to TAKE THIS BOOK IN....read each word - digest it!

    Its possible to read this novel in different ways. Many ways to experience it.

    For me... I related it to our little voices in our heads ... that little voice which always speaks to us.

    The critical voice -the happy voice too -

    I thought about the deeper evil spirits ... the personality splits.

    I loved the metaphysical storytelling. At times it felt contemporary as any other novel - ha!!

    Parents - family - struggles - coming of age

    - interests - education - travel - sex - friends - but....

    THIS IS NOT like ANY BOOK I’ve ever read!!!

    It took me about 8% to understand what I was reading - what was going on...

    It took me almost half way to get the DEPTS AND POWER of this novel...

    And then the ending... OH MY GOSH....it’s soooo beautiful. It still wants to make me cry!!!!

    “Freshwater” is FRESH!!! Sooooooooo GORGEOUSLY written....

    It allowed me to distant myself - FROM - myself - and be incredibly thankful that I have made remarkable growth in the area of healing in my lifetime.

    This is one of the most unique and symbolic transforming books I’ve ever read!!!!

    Thank you Grove Atlantic, Netgalley, and the brilliant author Akwaeke Emezi

  • Darkowaa

    !!!

    If I had known this book was as evil, dark and sinful as it was, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to read it. But now that I’ve marinated the story in my mind for a while, I can confidently declare that Freshwater is so much more than it’s insane level of lust and blasphemy. Freshwater is a dark, layered tale based in and out of the spiritual realm, which focuses on how past traumas deeply affect one’s well-being and mental health... (the FULL review

    !!!

    If I had known this book was as evil, dark and sinful as it was, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to read it. But now that I’ve marinated the story in my mind for a while, I can confidently declare that Freshwater is so much more than it’s insane level of lust and blasphemy. Freshwater is a dark, layered tale based in and out of the spiritual realm, which focuses on how past traumas deeply affect one’s well-being and mental health... (the FULL review is on the book blog - link above)

  • Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

    🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

    I have read nothing like Freshwater before. It is hard to categorize. It is literary fiction, but what else? Magical realism? Mysticism? The author noted at the end that this was her spiritual book, so I will go with spiritual literary fiction.

    I went with the literal flow while I was reading. Freshwater could be murky, even incoherent, at times. Ada was born in Nigeria, a difficult baby with a “fractur

    🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

    I have read nothing like Freshwater before. It is hard to categorize. It is literary fiction, but what else? Magical realism? Mysticism? The author noted at the end that this was her spiritual book, so I will go with spiritual literary fiction.

    I went with the literal flow while I was reading. Freshwater could be murky, even incoherent, at times. Ada was born in Nigeria, a difficult baby with a “fractured self.” What transpired is hard to describe but as Ada grew up, the selves within her grew stronger and more powerful. Ada took the backseat, while her alternative selves were in charge, and her life became dangerous and volatile.

    I do not want to spoil anything, so I am keeping this review brief. This is a novel, the layers, the writing, you have to experience for yourself. Keep your expectations loose, your mind open. If you enjoy gorgeous prose with profound messages of healing, hope, and truth, Freshwater is a most worthy read.

    Thank you to Akwaeke Emezi (I’m eagerly awaiting your next wondrous work!), Grove Atlantic, and Netgalley/Edelweiss for the complimentary copy.

  • Navidad Thelamour

    Akwaeke Emezi’s

    is a novel of layers that do not always nicely overlap; in fact, the pieces often seem to not fit together at all. It is a novel born from trauma and emotional paroxysms, a read that erupts with them throughout. You have to peel back the layers t

    Akwaeke Emezi’s

    is a novel of layers that do not always nicely overlap; in fact, the pieces often seem to not fit together at all. It is a novel born from trauma and emotional paroxysms, a read that erupts with them throughout. You have to peel back the layers to get to what Emezi has laid underneath, to find the gems, to find the hidden well of pain and sentiment offered here, and that may not be a satisfying journey for many readers.

    is the story of Ada, a young Nigerian woman with a fractured self, or multiple personalities, due to the gods who have mistakenly taken root in her body and mind. It is a dark novel portraying the malevolence within us – that darkness at the very deepest depths of us that we hope to never have to witness of ourselves or in others. It is a novel that portrays the psychological effects of such darkness and emotional violence. When Ada comes into adulthood and leaves her splintered home for a new existence in a Virginia college, a traumatic sexual experience further shatters her mind and her multiple personalities are born. Ada fights a battle between herself, her other selves and her God she left behind, a battle to regain her equilibrium that veers her onto a dangerous course of self-destructive behavior. A path of bloodshed, tears and an equal dose of sexual trauma and exploration. Ada fights with herself, realizing something is wrong. She wants a change but her other personalities refuse to let her go.

    was a novel that took a lot of patience for me to read. If you’re a reader who clings to continuity, who needs progressive character development to follow the path a protagonist’s life, or a reader who is in the least bit squeamish, this will likely prove to be a difficult read for you. Not an unworthy read – but a difficult one. The narrative leapt back and forth in time with new personalities and overlapping stories already told being retold differently. This book was a collage, a kaleidoscope, a reflection of a splintered self. Given the subject matter, the shattered quality of the narrative is understandable but at times arduous to read.

    It was hard for me to fully connect with

    when the moments of truth, heartbreak and the demise of entire relationships in Ada’s life were narrated, not fully shown in action. Emezi’s debut novel is more about the relationship between Ada and her other selves –internally—than it is about her outward experiences in the world.

    It wasn’t enough for me, though some parts of the novel were absolutely gripping, and there were some lovely lines scattered throughout.

    However, in those neglected moments (which is probably why the book is relatively short) the novel loses its soul and misses opportunities.

    Other qualms:

    The quote headings at the start of each chapter made no sense to me in the context of the story. Often, they made no sense to me at all though I got the feeling that they were Nigerian sayings. And I had too many

    moments here because of the haphazard way life events and realizations were thrown into the narrative, no build-up, just dumped. I found myself reading whole passages and thinking,

    That was the main issue I had with this novel: there was no real character development aside from Ada and Ewan, just a series of narrations and events.

    I also never understood the title of the book. There was a reference to it at the end of the novel, but I found it to be too cryptic and unclear, so I still have no idea what it was trying to convey, why it was the namesake of the book. Because of this, I had the noteworthy experience of loving and hating

    . There were moments where I couldn’t wait to turn the page and others where I skimmed past the incoherence of the We. Because of that,

    ’s dazzling and dreadful moments condensed down into a grade of 3 stars overall. ***

    *I received an advance-read copy of the book from the publisher, Grove Press, via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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  • Dianne

    How to review this, how to review this............

    The first 50 pages or so of this book were really tough for me. I felt like I was physically fighting the book, trying to wrestle it into submission. After the initial struggle, I fell into a somewhat uneasy rhythm with the story but I never quite managed to embrace it. I can appreciate it somewhat remotely as a very original and inspired work of art, but it stirs very little depth of feeling or emotion in me.

    This seems to be an allegorical narr

    How to review this, how to review this............

    The first 50 pages or so of this book were really tough for me. I felt like I was physically fighting the book, trying to wrestle it into submission. After the initial struggle, I fell into a somewhat uneasy rhythm with the story but I never quite managed to embrace it. I can appreciate it somewhat remotely as a very original and inspired work of art, but it stirs very little depth of feeling or emotion in me.

    This seems to be an allegorical narrative about mental illness, sexual identity and other ways in which a person might feel "other." The story is narrated by various selves contained within Ada, who apparently suffers from multiple personality disorder. The selves express themselves as gods called ogbanje. They contend with each other inside Ada's mind, with other gods outside of Ada that they refer to as "brothersisters," and with Ada herself. It's a funky scene, starting with Ada's birth in Nigeria to her adulthood in the US.

    The writing is very dense and lofty - well written and imaginative for sure, but tedious at the same time. It just all felt too much, too much, too much.

    I'd rate this as a 3.5, but am rounding down because, for me, it was more chore than pleasure.

    Sometimes books just don't speak to you, no matter how skillful the execution and the talents of the writer.

    Thanks to NetGalley and Grove Press for an ARC of this novel. My review, however, is based on the hardcover version.

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