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 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.

Freshwater Details

TitleFreshwater
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseFeb 13th, 2018
PublisherGrove Press
ISBN-139780802127358
Rating
GenreFiction, Cultural, Africa, Western Africa, Nigeria, Contemporary

Freshwater Review

  • Elyse
    January 1, 1970
    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
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  • PattyMacDotComma
    January 1, 1970
    5★ DEBUT! “DedicationTo those of uswith one footon the other side." “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 5★ DEBUT! “DedicationTo those of uswith one footon the other side." “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.”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 ogbanje 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 The Three Faces Of Eve, 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, Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie:“Chimamanda Adichie, for the Farafina Creative Writing Workshop and the ripples from that. For that moment when I started to tell you about the book and you tilted your head, looked at me, and said, ‘Ah, so you’re an ogbanje.’”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.
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  • Hannah
    January 1, 1970
    Oh wow. Dark and weird and emotional and stylistically wonderful. What an impressive book.Review to come when my head is cleared. My rating might still change... It already has. I am still unsure how to talk about this, so for now: extraordinary.
  • Tudor Vlad
    January 1, 1970
    I think that the best praise a book can get is having the reader think to himself “this is something that I have never read”, and this is what made Freshwater for me such an outstanding experience, the fact that I had no prior book that I could compare it to, it was completely new territory. It is also what makes it so damn hard to review, there are all these feelings mixed up in my mind and making sense of them is just as hard as it was for Ada to make sense of herself. For starters, it is real I think that the best praise a book can get is having the reader think to himself “this is something that I have never read”, and this is what made Freshwater for me such an outstanding experience, the fact that I had no prior book that I could compare it to, it was completely new territory. It is also what makes it so damn hard to review, there are all these feelings mixed up in my mind and making sense of them is just as hard as it was for Ada to make sense of herself. For starters, it is really hard to make sense of what genre you should place it in, but then you realize that labeling is just what this book tries to fight, so doing it to it feels wrong. Akwaeke tells the story of Ada, a girl that since her birth has always been considered by the people around her as peculiar for there were two spirits that lived inside her since her birth. These spirits that long to complete their passage from the real world into the other side, with their only obstacle toward that goal being the fact that they are linked to Ada’s physical body. Over time, the spirits, begin to form a sort of relationship with Ada and they become protectors to her. They take hold of her body when the reality and the people around her are just too much to handle because for a girl that is possessed by two evil spirits, she is remarkably good and innocent, and easily corrupted by the world. The way in which Akwaeke uses mysticism in order to detach the reader from what they believe to know about mental illnesses is something that I found extremely clever and I was left in awe by how effective it was. This book explores a lot of modern themes such as identity, self-acceptance and what makes as normal and for that matter, does normal even exist? Freshwater celebrates owning and accepting your own voice, no matter what that voice might say or in how many other voices it might fracture. A book that speaks to that little voice inside of you that wants to be heard, but you never had the courage to let it free. It really is a groundbreaking work of literature.I received an advanced copy of this book courtesy of Groove Atlantic, Groove Press and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Darkowaa
    January 1, 1970
    I don’t know how to rate this. I’m conflicted between 3 and 4 stars. On Akwaeke’s ogbanje Twitter account, she was quoting some alternative blurbs for ‘Freshwater’, from friends who read the book. One quote aptly sums up this debut: “this book is both an escape plan, first aid kit and therapist. also, I came twice”. 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 ‘Freshwater’ is so much more than its insane level of lust and blas I don’t know how to rate this. I’m conflicted between 3 and 4 stars. On Akwaeke’s ogbanje Twitter account, she was quoting some alternative blurbs for ‘Freshwater’, from friends who read the book. One quote aptly sums up this debut: “this book is both an escape plan, first aid kit and therapist. also, I came twice”. 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 ‘Freshwater’ is so much more than its insane level of lust and blasphemy. Its a layered tale on how past traumas deeply affect one’s well-being and mental health. Its also about the spiritual realm and how various spirits can poison the human soul.Ada- the main character, has many selves. These selves within her are different gods who are birthed during different phases and traumas of her life. These gods are almost like her alter egos and they sustain her human body through protective and destructive means. Multiple Personality Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety, suicide, panic attacks, rape (I COULDN’T DEAL), lust, violence, sex (A LOT OF IT, it was unbelievable -_-), self-mutilation, love, Religion, strained family relations, sisterhood, immigration, homosexuality and gender fluidity are all explored in this layered story. In the beginning, reading Freshwater was frustrating because shit didn’t make sense! I didn’t know who was talking! Was it (the) Ada, Asughara, Saint Vincent (who’s role in this story still doesn’t make sense to me. He wasn’t needed, to be very honest), brothersisters, Ala? WHO? There’s a certain rhythm to this debut, which will only make sense if the reader has an open mind and patience. Some parts of this book still don’t make sense and some characters didn’t need to be introduced at all. Also, the timeline of this tale was confusing... and at times felt too unrealistic. But all in all I think this has been a weekend well spent, indulging in this extraordinary tale, even though it felt sinful at times. I found the writing style accessible, calculated and not overly embellished. The most fascinating thing about this book is the juxtaposition between God of Christianity vrs the gods of the dark world. (The) Ada’s relationship with the two associations speak volumes on our (Africans) relationship with religion and how it controls our lives, whether it feels real or not. Its hard to explain! I also loved that Akwaeke explores the difficulties of loving and accepting oneself. We all have other selves within us, in the form of our blended temperaments, alter egos and moods. This human fact is explored in a scary, extreme way. These are just my rough thoughts. This book is definitely not for everyone (esp hardcore Christians who can’t appreciate the art of the imagination that God blessed writers with), especially with how difficult it was to read. It requires some work to understand this type of novel, whose genre isn’t even clearcut (its a mix of sci-fi, mythicism, thriller, memoir - as parts of Akwaeke’s real life are part of the story). I don’t think there’s a book out there like this. Akwaeke is a beast - no pun intended. *An in-depth review will be on africanbookaddict.com closer to the pub date. Thank you - Grove Atlantic via Netgally :)
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  • Kristina
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you to Netgalley and publisher for granting me this request of getting a free e-copy in exchange for a review.Just a disclaimer: my review does absolutely nothing for the book. It is far too brilliant. We'd need an entire day and a glass of wine or a cup of tea on an open veranda to discuss. When I started "Freshwater", my initial thoughts were "Aah...what's this?" Lol. But upon completion, a breathed a very weighted "whoa". Freshwater is quite literally unlike anything I've ever read. It Thank you to Netgalley and publisher for granting me this request of getting a free e-copy in exchange for a review.Just a disclaimer: my review does absolutely nothing for the book. It is far too brilliant. We'd need an entire day and a glass of wine or a cup of tea on an open veranda to discuss. When I started "Freshwater", my initial thoughts were "Aah...what's this?" Lol. But upon completion, a breathed a very weighted "whoa". Freshwater is quite literally unlike anything I've ever read. It crept and arrived in spaces I didn't know existed in me. To say that Akwaeke has a way with words is to utterly undersell her pure, otherworldly talent. She seamlessly weaves together a story rife with hard and heavy themes like spirituality, mental illness, trauma and our responses to them, identity and family. In the early scenes of the book, it's easy to get somewhat lost as we're introduced to one of our narrators, in the form of the elusive "we". But the more you read on, the more you become engrossed in the world that Akwaeke is spinning, the more you begin to understand the confusing, dizzying, intoxicating, heartbreaking whirlwind of an existence that Ada has to endure. It becomes even clearer when we're introduced to the other characters that spring from her "fractured self" and, suddenly, you're wondering about the fissures and fractures in your own self.The fact that it's based in the author's own realities is evident through its rawness and its honesty and makes this novel even more of a gem. Akwaeke reminds us, that though we live in this binary world that seeks to label us, categorise us and grind us into their own shapes, we are godlike and gods cannot be contained. Thank you, Akwaeke, for sharing this with the world. For sharing this with me.
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  • Lolly K Dandeneau
    January 1, 1970
    via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/'Humans often pray and forget what their mouths can do, forget that every ear is listening, that when you direct your longing to the gods, they can take that personally.'This is one splintered read, which is the intention to convey a shattering mind. It took a bit of time for me to get into the many voices, in fact I held off on writing a review because it’s such a strange take on mental illness or spiritual madness (depending on what you chose via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/'Humans often pray and forget what their mouths can do, forget that every ear is listening, that when you direct your longing to the gods, they can take that personally.'This is one splintered read, which is the intention to convey a shattering mind. It took a bit of time for me to get into the many voices, in fact I held off on writing a review because it’s such a strange take on mental illness or spiritual madness (depending on what you chose to call it). The gates are open, and what comes out is disturbing. Ada has been conjured through prayers, a badly wanted child but it isn’t long after her birth that her parent’s know something is wrong. In her first ‘slow years’ of infancy, she was ‘moody, bright, a heaving sun. Violent.’ As she slips into many selves, Ada begins to fade away.From Nigeria to America, the ‘others’ are always within, taking over. They are her strength, her terror, her power- but where is Ada? Are they guiding and protecting her, or is she hostage to these supernatural spirits? This is genre bending, and a fascinating surrealist exploration of mental illness. Is it all scientific, can it ever be supernatural, beyond our grasp? Reading it was like being enraptured by madness, it’s the sort of strange book I had to take breaks from. I haven’t read anything like it before.It does often seem there is a blur between science/religion, mental illness/mysticism- I won’t go on about that here, lord knows there are enough books about saints and mystics that explore if it was ‘mental illness’ or truly encounters with god(s). There is a struggle of self, and we don’t hear as much from Ada as we do from her many others, she is there, but she is a diluted self.This isn’t going to be your average read, based on ‘the authors own personal experiences’ it is a unique unfolding. How do you put to paper the chaos within’ your tornado mind? Though most people believe themselves to be stable beings, there are moments in ever life when solid ground abandons the mind, many moments of identity crisis, luckily for the majority of us these are fleeting moments. What, who am I? In a sense, we all house many selves, but when you can’t differentiate or put forth the core ‘me’, an unraveling occurs.Which Ada is she? The seductress, the volatile and violent, the fearful? Is she full of gods? Which reality is the most real? The one we live in our minds, or the outside world? An ‘easily bruised child’ that takes all the wounds of her life into adulthood, will she ever be Ada, will she merge with the others and decide to plant both feet in the ‘other-world’, check out of her own? The veil between our world, and the spiritual is a wispy cobweb for Ada.This is like no book you will ever read, if it were a painting, it would have many faces and you wouldn’t be able to explain it, nor whether you’re looking at a human, monster or god. Some readers will be brain numbed and lost, others will devour it. Curious to see what this author will cook up next.Publication Date: February 13, 2018Grove AtlanticGrove Press
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  • Krystal
    January 1, 1970
    WoW! Extraordinary debut novel! This engaging #ownvoices book captures vivid imagery in weaving a narrative that pushes the limits of what is conventionally considered possible!
  • Kay
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for approving my request for a free digital copy in exchange for a review.TW: RapeRepresentation for: PTSD, Multiple Personality DisorderThis book is too good, and at around 41 pages to go I decided to stop reading. I may pick it up again but I decided to stop because I didn't want to say goodbye to this book. This has never happened before and I doubt it ever will again. Freshwater is easily one of the top three books I have read this year. The writing is s Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for approving my request for a free digital copy in exchange for a review.TW: RapeRepresentation for: PTSD, Multiple Personality DisorderThis book is too good, and at around 41 pages to go I decided to stop reading. I may pick it up again but I decided to stop because I didn't want to say goodbye to this book. This has never happened before and I doubt it ever will again. Freshwater is easily one of the top three books I have read this year. The writing is so sophisticated and polished that I found myself immersed in this world extremely quickly. I found myself wanting to rush home or skip work just to spend time reading this book. It's one of my favourite feelings as a reader and I am extremely happy I found it in this book. That said, while I deeply loved this book I think there may be some readers who will struggle to feel as fully immersed as I did. A large part of this is due to the writing style in the first few chapters as "we." This, I believe is largely intentional and mimics the chaos of the spirit world as well as what Ada herself may have felt when she was young. If you find yourself struggling in the first few chapters keep reading. There are multiple layers to the voices, and the characters, although I think there will be those who wish we got more of St. Vincent. I'm not sure if the continued exploitation of his POV would enhance the story so I am fine leaving it at the current minimum.That said, this is a disgustingly good book and I cannot recommend it enough.
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  • Lex Poot
    January 1, 1970
    Caveat: I won this book in the Goodreads Giveaway.2nd book in three weeks in which the spiritual world plays a big role. It is obvious that events in her early life has "allowed" the spirits to enter her body to cope with abuse which she keeps seeking whether in self-mutilation or abusive relationships. Very interesting book though at the end of the book I got kind of lost in where her restless souls were bringing her. She traveled from one continent to another. Otherwise highly recommended.
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  • Jill
    January 1, 1970
    I picked up this book on a whim never having heard of it or the author before. The book description is accurate, but this book is so much more. The Ada, as the alternate selves refer to their body, transforms from a victim of sorts to something much more powerful. I especially loved the conversations in the marble room which refer to the internal conversations between the selves and Asughara’s conversation with Christ. This book is certainly a stretch of the imagination but it is unique and full I picked up this book on a whim never having heard of it or the author before. The book description is accurate, but this book is so much more. The Ada, as the alternate selves refer to their body, transforms from a victim of sorts to something much more powerful. I especially loved the conversations in the marble room which refer to the internal conversations between the selves and Asughara’s conversation with Christ. This book is certainly a stretch of the imagination but it is unique and full of strength. It reminds me of how full of mystery our spirituality is.I will be watching for more from Akwaeke Emezi.
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  • Andre
    January 1, 1970
    A fascinating twisted tale that suffocates all the light and takes the reader to a dark place. This in no way implies that the book isn't readable or worthy of recommendation, just the most accurate description I can give in a sentence. Ada was prayed for by her parents, who wanted to have a girl and so her their prayers were answered and Ada was born, but with one foot in the spirit world and one foot in the human world. The story is told alternately from the 'we', the spirits inside Ada, and a A fascinating twisted tale that suffocates all the light and takes the reader to a dark place. This in no way implies that the book isn't readable or worthy of recommendation, just the most accurate description I can give in a sentence. Ada was prayed for by her parents, who wanted to have a girl and so her their prayers were answered and Ada was born, but with one foot in the spirit world and one foot in the human world. The story is told alternately from the 'we', the spirits inside Ada, and at times one particular spirit, and Ada herself. Unnerving in a way that will make your heartache as Ada tries to control her mind, that is spiraling out of control leading her to dangerous actions and thoughts that threaten her very existence. It's a spirit vs. human battle and plays out to others as crazy, mental illness, possession or some clinical designation. Akwaeke Emezi writes with a master's voice in such a way that anytime you read or hear about someone being "possessed" this book will come to mind.Ada is referred to as "the Ada" in the novel, perhaps to highlight the thingness of her being. Early on she constantly wakes up standing over her parents bed in tears, Ms. Emezi writes as the parents seek answer, "“What happened?” A thousand times. “I had a bad dream.” Poor thing. It wasn’t her fault—she didn’t know that we lived in her, not yet." As Ada grows, attempting to make sense of her self, and establish control, the ride the reader is taken on is unreal. How can you express a fractured mind within a fractured body in a fractured world? This is what the novel attempts and it is a complex undertaking but the blurb from the book states "based in the author's realities." With that in mind, this book demands your alertness and engrossment, it will stay with you long after you put it down."...but how much can flesh really hurt spirit? Who do you think will be bruised more in the end?"Harrowing! A big thank you to Grove Atlantic and Netgalley for providing an advanced ebook. Book will publish Feb., 13, 2018.
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  • Dominique
    January 1, 1970
    My review: https://youtu.be/rYEEmDqxuxI
  • Swarnika Sankhla
    January 1, 1970
    Understand this if you understand nothing; it is a powerful thing to be seen. Mesmerising. Phenomenal. Dazzling. Fresh. Mystical. I wanted to simply paste the first chapter of this book here, instead of writing a review.For starters, I'm completely blown away by the writing. This is unlike anything I have ever read before, totally pulled in from the very beginning, fully engrossed in the surreal narrative. I'm already looking forward to what Akwaeke Emezi writes next and oh I hope she writes lo Understand this if you understand nothing; it is a powerful thing to be seen. Mesmerising. Phenomenal. Dazzling. Fresh. Mystical. I wanted to simply paste the first chapter of this book here, instead of writing a review.For starters, I'm completely blown away by the writing. This is unlike anything I have ever read before, totally pulled in from the very beginning, fully engrossed in the surreal narrative. I'm already looking forward to what Akwaeke Emezi writes next and oh I hope she writes lots and lots of books for years to come. Also, did I mention, this is her debut novel! Fascinating! This is almost a five-star read for me, the only reason I made it four is because it's difficult saying I loved a novel which deals with topics so dark that I felt quite disturbed for some time, thereby taking longer than usual to read and felt that a few plot points could have been better tied or at least better timed.The writing is fluid, with an inexplicably honest tone to it. Narrative hitting like a cold shower in the sweltering heat. Cultural references sparking the mysticism. Even if you don't care about the themes, this book can solely be read for the writing, to immerse in words and let them wash over.Saul and Saachi pray for a daughter and Ada is born, but not alone, she is never alone. With spirits inside her from the 'other side', referring her as 'The Ada', ignited by their 'brothersisters', they both protect and torture her. When Ada moves to US for college, one of the spirits is born in it's full form as the consequence of sexual assault, Asaghura. Later another spirit takes it's full form called Saint Vincent. And then there are other half-formed spitrits. Together, they split Ada's personality and take over her life demanding sacrifices and causing havoc. She threw glasses against the wall and they shattered into thousands of fragements shining with angry points, a better future than being whole. Ada gets very little POV time, most of the narration comes from the spirits which aptly goes on to show how dominant they are and when her narration does come up, it's nothing short of powerful and heart wrenching. Through these spirits multiple themes are explored like addiction, gender conformity, religion, racism, loss etc. and surprisingly each theme gets it's due. There is a certain brutality which comes to the fore with this choice of narration, and it's good, it helps to understand exactly how rough it is for someone struggling with mental health. And while he loves humans (he was born of one, lived and died as one), what they forget is that he loves them as a god does, which is to say, with a taste for suffering. Reaction to loss, rejection and assault, the denial that comes with these, the anger, everything takes form and while they shook me to the core I couldn't help but admire how directly they have been addressed. The raw writing doesn't leave anything to imagination or perceptions, it tells you exactly how things are. I was furious. It was as if staying alive just gave everyone else time to leave you. This book is launching a potentially major voice in literature, I just hope it gets enough publicity and is read by more people, specially reviewers who can take it to masses. I haven't read a lot on mental health but as much as I have read, I can surely say that this one is the most brutal and yet, the most sensitive. Not just because the depiction is perfect but also because the end is exactly how it should be. It could've easily gone the other way but I'm happy that the author chose to end it on a strong note and I think it has a lot to do with the fact that the novel is somewhat autobiographical.Looking forward to the next book by Akwaeke.Triggers: PTSD, self-harm, sexual assault, multiple personality disorder, drug abuse, panic attack, depressionThanks to Grove Atlantis for a review copy. All opinions are my own.
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  • Marchpane
    January 1, 1970
    A unique examination of painful adolescence, Freshwater is bewitching, bewildering and arresting in equal measure. The novel combines an almost stream-of-consciousness narrative style with the central conceit of the multiple narrators being deities that inhabit the protagonist's mind. The result is an interesting perspective on a fracturing sense of self. It is the reader's experience of this perspective, rather than the actual story or plot, that fuels the book.
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  • Amirah Jiwa
    January 1, 1970
    Wow. I'm blown away. This is an astonishing debut by Emezi that sucked me in and then spat me out, moved and changed. I've been anticipating this work for a while now as I follow the author on instagram and have read some of her short stories published online, but nothing prepared me for the form this novel took and the power it had. I normally shy away from reading about anything supernatural or spiritual and if I'd known the content of this I might not have picked it up, but I'm so glad I didn Wow. I'm blown away. This is an astonishing debut by Emezi that sucked me in and then spat me out, moved and changed. I've been anticipating this work for a while now as I follow the author on instagram and have read some of her short stories published online, but nothing prepared me for the form this novel took and the power it had. I normally shy away from reading about anything supernatural or spiritual and if I'd known the content of this I might not have picked it up, but I'm so glad I didn't know so I did pick it up. I'm not going to reveal much because this book needs to be experienced but I will say I'm stunned by how many topics this addressed—love, family, faith, identity, place, and mental health—so deeply, while not seeming to really touch them at all. A must read and surely going to be one of the best releases in 2018.NB: I received an ARC of this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Cristina
    January 1, 1970
    Seamlessly weaving a Nigerian mythos of mischievous gods (Ọgbanje) with a Western understanding of psychopathology, this breakout novel burrows into the experience of trauma, self-awareness, and spiritual awakening. The deeply surreal story is narrated by a girl with "one foot on the other side" and the chorus of selves that reside in her fractured mind. Somehow despite the extremely heavy and personal subject matter, Emezi's narrative voices are as entertaining as they are painfully relatable. Seamlessly weaving a Nigerian mythos of mischievous gods (Ọgbanje) with a Western understanding of psychopathology, this breakout novel burrows into the experience of trauma, self-awareness, and spiritual awakening. The deeply surreal story is narrated by a girl with "one foot on the other side" and the chorus of selves that reside in her fractured mind. Somehow despite the extremely heavy and personal subject matter, Emezi's narrative voices are as entertaining as they are painfully relatable. What a fucking fantastic read.
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  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    A surprising novel to finish the year. I was confused for several chapters, but let my brain settle into the magic realism, or mysticism, or whatever you want to call it, and enjoyed the story from there. It's tough to read at times, never completely clear... but also really beautiful and touching. I'm so glad I found this little treasure.I received a review copy from NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
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  • Ilona
    January 1, 1970
    A difficult book to categorize, a difficult book to rate. Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi tells the story of Ada, a woman born in Nigeria with a personality disorder causing her to have two alternative selves living her life with her. Triggered into existence by traumatic experiences in her youth, Asụghara and Saint Vincent believe to help Ada live her life, which they regularly take over and control. This story is partly told from the perspectives of these selves, and although this point of view is A difficult book to categorize, a difficult book to rate. Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi tells the story of Ada, a woman born in Nigeria with a personality disorder causing her to have two alternative selves living her life with her. Triggered into existence by traumatic experiences in her youth, Asụghara and Saint Vincent believe to help Ada live her life, which they regularly take over and control. This story is partly told from the perspectives of these selves, and although this point of view is often very dark, it feels fresh. It’s something new. Something I have never read before. In the beginning I was often lost because of the slightly chaotic timeline and spiritual ideas. But gradually I came to understand that this chaos reflects the Ada and her personality disorder, it reflects the fact that she is lost in her thoughts, memories and herself. Spirituality is not my cup of tea, and there was a bit too much of it in my opinion, but it is used as an interesting way of explanation to people who do not have any experience with multiple personality disorders, alternatives selves and split identities.Easy to say that Emezi has surprised me with this wonderful debut novel!Thanks to NetGalley, Grove Press and Grove Atlantic for an advanced reading copy in exchange for an honest review. Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi will be published on February 18th, 2018
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  • Elo Osunde
    January 1, 1970
    Freshwater is a brutal, dark comfort. Its voices are sharp and merciless. I read it in fevered rushes in the space of two days, and after crying so hard because of how understood it made me feel, I immediately wrote the author a letter. Before Freshwater, I had entered and hidden myself so well in book-worlds, but I had never, until Freshwater, encountered a book that could peel my layers and then show me my deepest selves with such stubborn clarity. A book that had the mouth and voice to say: c Freshwater is a brutal, dark comfort. Its voices are sharp and merciless. I read it in fevered rushes in the space of two days, and after crying so hard because of how understood it made me feel, I immediately wrote the author a letter. Before Freshwater, I had entered and hidden myself so well in book-worlds, but I had never, until Freshwater, encountered a book that could peel my layers and then show me my deepest selves with such stubborn clarity. A book that had the mouth and voice to say: come out from where you are hiding - or don't, if you don't want to, but - I can see your mind's entire population; especially the citizens you don't count as upright. The arrogance and lucidity of its prose felt like having the author's eyes on me. Except, they were on in me in tens. Freshwater is a living thing. I recommend it to every adult who is capable of reading, because if you surrender to its worlds, there is bound to be at least one new thing you learn about yourself. Find it and let it hold you. Let it do for you what you didn't know you needed. In summary, this is both a beast and a revelation of a book. Not a single person could have seen it coming.
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  • Kristina Reads - Books. Blogs. Memes.
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 starsTrigger warnings: HEAVY for suicide and self-injury, as well as drug use, domestic violence, and sexual abuse of children.This is all, ultimately, a litany of madness …This is going to be a short review because it’s hard to say much about this book. This was a well-written and fascinating look into severe mental illness, narrated by the varying personalities existing within Ada as well as Ada herself.The first third or so of the book is difficult to get into, as it is narrated by “We”, 3.5 starsTrigger warnings: HEAVY for suicide and self-injury, as well as drug use, domestic violence, and sexual abuse of children.This is all, ultimately, a litany of madness …This is going to be a short review because it’s hard to say much about this book. This was a well-written and fascinating look into severe mental illness, narrated by the varying personalities existing within Ada as well as Ada herself.The first third or so of the book is difficult to get into, as it is narrated by “We”, the ogbanje who inhabit Ada’s body. They refer to her as “the Ada” and see themselves as separate entities who only make use of her body as their home for the time being. Following a sexual assault in college, Ada births the personalities of Asughara and then Saint Vincent via the ogbanje. Each plays a different role in protecting Ada and moving her through life.I was the wildness under the skin, the skin into a weapon, the weapon over the flesh. I was here. No one would ever touch her again.Throughout the novel also are Ada’s interactions with contemporary religion, and how it plays a role in her life when it isn’t Yshwa who comes to save her, but her own mind.The ending is vague and purposefully so. I have an idea on how to interpret it, but I think I’ll keep it to myself for now.Everything gets clearer with each day, as long as I listen. With each morning, I am less afraid. If you are struggling with self-injury or thoughts of suicide, there is help available. Call 1-800-273-8255 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.
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  • Katherine
    January 1, 1970
    I always appreciate reading books that are as unique as this one. It would be impossible for me to categorize it and nearly as difficult to describe it to someone. I believe each reader will interpret this book in their own way. Is this book about a woman with mental illness who has been repeatedly traumatized and who has reacted to these events by creating separate personalities to help her cope, or about a woman who is also a God and has spirits trapped inside her? It all depends, I suppose, o I always appreciate reading books that are as unique as this one. It would be impossible for me to categorize it and nearly as difficult to describe it to someone. I believe each reader will interpret this book in their own way. Is this book about a woman with mental illness who has been repeatedly traumatized and who has reacted to these events by creating separate personalities to help her cope, or about a woman who is also a God and has spirits trapped inside her? It all depends, I suppose, on your own understanding and beliefs.
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  • Dora Okeyo
    January 1, 1970
    This book held me captive till the very end.The story follows Ada, a child who upon birth is believed to possess two spirits inside her. As she grows, she's both sweet and volatile, something that is not known to everyone for her spirits take charge each seeking to meet their own selfish needs. The author molds a story that is both candid and incomplete for she uses mysticism to weave an understanding of mental illness. You feel as though you are the spirits inside Ada, and you are also an outsi This book held me captive till the very end.The story follows Ada, a child who upon birth is believed to possess two spirits inside her. As she grows, she's both sweet and volatile, something that is not known to everyone for her spirits take charge each seeking to meet their own selfish needs. The author molds a story that is both candid and incomplete for she uses mysticism to weave an understanding of mental illness. You feel as though you are the spirits inside Ada, and you are also an outsider observing Ada which made this book irresistible.When Ada struggles to come to terms with what's happening inside her mind, they remind her that she is them and they are her. Sectioning the Ada gave her isolated pockets of memory, each containing a different version of her. There were versions to whom bad things had happened and, therefore, there were versions of her to whom these things had not happened. This terrified her, because if there were so many of her,then which one was she?I love how the voice of each of the gods within Ada was firm. There was a certain dominance and certainty to them that made me await the awakening of Ada. I was reading this and when I got to Chapter Twenty, all I could keep saying was "come on Ada, get up Ada!"It is at exactly that moment that I read this When you break something, you must study the pattern of the shattering before you can piece it back together. So it was with the Ada. She was a question wrapped up in breath: How do you survive when they place a god inside your body?There is a phrase in the book that goes First feed your gods which I found to be remarkably simple but the weight of it stayed with me. If there's anything that I learned from this book is that people are as unique as they come and no matter how many voices speak up or demand attention in your head, in that shattering moment, you are still the one who counts. Finding out how to make it count is what matters.I'd like to thank Grove Atlantic, Grove Press and NetGalley for the advance copy, for it's been a refreshing read.
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  • Carl
    January 1, 1970
    The best of Fantasy and horror takes you to new places, new realities in such a way as to fully buy into its existence entirely and effortlessly, so you simply enjoy the ride to wherever the writer goes.Freshwater is just such a book. Ada, a troubled young Nigerian girl is born with a host of Nigerian Spirits/Gods trapped inside her, all vying for control. What follows is a tale of the fight for control and co-existence quite unlike anything I've ever read.One of the brilliant parts of this nove The best of Fantasy and horror takes you to new places, new realities in such a way as to fully buy into its existence entirely and effortlessly, so you simply enjoy the ride to wherever the writer goes.Freshwater is just such a book. Ada, a troubled young Nigerian girl is born with a host of Nigerian Spirits/Gods trapped inside her, all vying for control. What follows is a tale of the fight for control and co-existence quite unlike anything I've ever read.One of the brilliant parts of this novel lies in telling the story through the Spirits/Gods point of view and not the girl's. In a uniquely chilling way the girl, for most of the novel, is barely present.Emezi's writing is luminous, simple and direct and yet complex and delicious.Look for this in February, it is well worth reading.I eagerly await Akwaeke Emezi's next book.
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  • Olutimehin Adegbeye
    January 1, 1970
    Freshwater is an astonishing book. There's no other way to describe the pure originality of the style, the voice, and especially the content of this book. Stepping lightly from theme to theme, the author unflinchingly explores difficult subjects like identity, displacement, mental illness and self-acceptance in a way that is unprecedented, challenging and, to me, deeply necessary. Freshwater is a genre-defying work of such profound confidence that it's almost impossible to believe that this is t Freshwater is an astonishing book. There's no other way to describe the pure originality of the style, the voice, and especially the content of this book. Stepping lightly from theme to theme, the author unflinchingly explores difficult subjects like identity, displacement, mental illness and self-acceptance in a way that is unprecedented, challenging and, to me, deeply necessary. Freshwater is a genre-defying work of such profound confidence that it's almost impossible to believe that this is the author's debut. I think this book will be heralded as one of those that become frontrunners in a whole new literary tradition. Read it.
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  • Diane Payne
    January 1, 1970
    This was not an easy read, and that's not just because of the we/brothersister/Ada selves that also take on the role of one character, but because of the darkness that fills the life of our main character with the splintered souls. Most of the time I enjoyed the lyrical narrative, the experimental prose. There were times I felt I was uncertain I was following the thread as intended.
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  • BooksnFreshair (Poornima Apte)
    January 1, 1970
    This book...WOW!
  • Jarune Uwujaren
    January 1, 1970
    To be honest, I only created a Goodreads account for the chance to get an early copy of this book. Mercifully, the book got delivered to my house a month early on a preorder 10 hours ago. I want to say I devoured this book, but more accurately, it devoured me--Emezi's prose is transportive like that.I won't summarize the book much in this review because there are many existing reviews that point to the story. I will say I have never read a book like it. It's compelling, but I can't look it in th To be honest, I only created a Goodreads account for the chance to get an early copy of this book. Mercifully, the book got delivered to my house a month early on a preorder 10 hours ago. I want to say I devoured this book, but more accurately, it devoured me--Emezi's prose is transportive like that.I won't summarize the book much in this review because there are many existing reviews that point to the story. I will say I have never read a book like it. It's compelling, but I can't look it in the eye, refreshing, but it left me physically shaking in parts, dazzling, but violently so. The manifold protagonist(s)--an Ogbanje spirit in a human body called "Ada," a woman named Ada possessing an Ogbanje spirit--articulates their realities with such self-knowledge, protectiveness, and self-compassion at times that it made me, the reader, feel seen. Speaking as a Nigerian American born to Christian parents, there are various aspects of Ada's existence that are painfully denied, stigmatized, and downplayed in our not at all tender society--the lasting effects of trauma and violence, the realities of suicidality and hospitalization, the pain of being rendered illegible and therefore alone in a world that seems to affirm a desire for death, the othergenders and othersexualities that we (Africans) knew and now shun because we forget ourselves. In holding, knowing, protecting, and deliberately articulating itself, the ogbanje is its own witness, its own iyi-uwa, its own bridge home, and it does not permit itself to be viewed as something exotic or fantastical in the way i feel characters depicted as straddling this divide often are in fiction. I rather got the sense that I was visiting Ada's selves in their own space(s), forced to put down my natural inclination to judge and rationalize and diagnose and categorize rather than meet another's reality.I've rambled on so I'm not sure how valuable this review would be to someone who just wants to know what the book is about. But I'd say, I'd recommend it to people who relate to any of the following: hungry ass people who enjoy lovingly detailed descriptions of food, those whose spiritual or diagnostic journeys have made them strangers to their own families, those who have a complicated relationship with their bodies in any form, those who have ever hurt or scarred or destroyed themselves trying to protect themselves, those who just want to see untranslated and unitalicized Igbo in a novel because it reminds you of your mother's tongue, those who are on the path to knowing and becoming themselves, and those who are on that frightening journey of learning who/what they are and how they must behave accordingly. This is a book that I hope has a very wide reach, and I will be stanning the fuck out of this and Emezi's other writing because this is only the beginning and I wasn't even ready.
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  • Cynthia
    January 1, 1970
    Whew. A part of me thinks I should probably wait a day or two before writing the review to let all that I've read completely marinate and digest. However, I am compelled to get it all out while the impression it has left is strong and penetrating. The Dedication of the book says "To those of us with one foot on the other side." From that moment you know this book will be unlike anything you've ever read and it did not disappoint. Emezi illustrated with perfection just how delicate our grasp on r Whew. A part of me thinks I should probably wait a day or two before writing the review to let all that I've read completely marinate and digest. However, I am compelled to get it all out while the impression it has left is strong and penetrating. The Dedication of the book says "To those of us with one foot on the other side." From that moment you know this book will be unlike anything you've ever read and it did not disappoint. Emezi illustrated with perfection just how delicate our grasp on reality can be and how experiences we have repressed can shape who we become and the choices we make. If you've ever struggled with balancing your spiritual and human self, you identify with Ada immediately and even sometimes lose patience with her just as we often do with ourselves when we forget (or simply don't know) just how spiritually powerful we are. I didn't fully understand where Emezi was going with the different voices or "personalities" of Ada, sometimes even believing that she was writing a novel about mental illness rather than spiritual awakening. However, seeing how they evolved throughout the story and how Ada eventually understood the necessity of their existence made this novel an amazing portrait of why traditional African religions still have an important place in the lives of the descendants of Africa.
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  • Catherine
    January 1, 1970
    A god/gods is incarnated in a baby human girl. The girl grows up, leaves Nigeria to attend college in the U.S., suffers from mental illness, and is abused. The god, for their part, rails against being unable to return from this body. Some of the other advance reviews I’ve read don’t grapple with these gods and make them entirely metaphorical, but I think that doing so would leave us without much story, for they carry most of the narrative. But the book does force multiple perspectives and thus i A god/gods is incarnated in a baby human girl. The girl grows up, leaves Nigeria to attend college in the U.S., suffers from mental illness, and is abused. The god, for their part, rails against being unable to return from this body. Some of the other advance reviews I’ve read don’t grapple with these gods and make them entirely metaphorical, but I think that doing so would leave us without much story, for they carry most of the narrative. But the book does force multiple perspectives and thus invites multiple interpretations. Like the lwa mentioned in passing, it has an essence but to compartmentalize or make equations is beside the point.
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