In one of the most original stories I've ever read, Akwaeke Emezi explores the fractured self - mental illness - through the lens of several gods that live within Ada. Born in Nigeria, a troubled childhood leads to troubled adulthood when she departs for America to go to college. As she grows, different gods take turns "protecting her," using her body to fulfill their own (often selfish) needs. Ada's struggle is to find and maintain a sense of her human self among all these different characters living within her. Refreshing and new, this is one of the most unique takes on mental illness I've ever come across and really raises the bar for contemporary fiction.— From Carl
February 2018 Indie Next List
“A full and arresting examination of the search for a sense of belonging to one's self, Freshwater reads like the result of a successful dinner party hosted by Chimamanda Adichie, with a guest list featuring Octavia Butler, Neil Gaiman, Salman Rushdie, Helen Oyeyemi, and several preeminent cultural and sociological scholars. Freshwater follows Ada, a child born with 'a foot on the other side,' through her early life in Nigeria and her emigration to America, where she is trailed by many forces from the lands she left behind. It gives us new vocabulary and territories for exploring the awkwardness of intersections that we encounter - gender, culture, tradition, history, personal mythology - and how one might go about locating herself in the pull of so many competing influences.”
— Sarah Bumstead, Vroman's Bookstore, Pasadena, CA
Winter 2018 Reading Group Indie Next List
“As soon as I started this book, I wanted to tell anyone who would listen about it. The story begins with birth—the birth of a Nigerian girl, but also the birth of the children of Gods within her. Told through the perspective of Ada’s other selves, Freshwater takes readers on the journey of her life. This is the story of someone born fractured, with ‘one foot on the other side.’ An incredible, unique, and completely enthralling read. I feel as though no description will truly do this book justice.”
— Elisa Thomas, Cellar Door Books, Riverside, CA
Ada has always been unusual. As an infant in southern Nigeria, she is a source of deep concern to her family. Her parents successfully prayed her into existence, but something must have gone awry, as the young Ada becomes a troubled child, prone to violent fits of anger and grief.
But Ada turns out to be more than just volatile. Born "with one foot on the other side," she begins to develop separate selves. When Ada travels to America for college, a traumatic event crystallizes the selves into something more powerful. As Ada fades into the background of her own mind and these alters--now protective, now hedonistic--move into control, Ada's life spirals in a dangerous direction.
Written with stylistic brilliance and based in the author's realities, this raw and extraordinary debut explores the metaphysics of identity and being, plunging the reader into the mysteries of self. Unsettling, heart-wrenching, dark, and powerful, Freshwater dazzles with ferocious energy and serpentine grace, heralding the arrival of a fierce new literary voice.
About the Author
Akwaeke Emezi is an Igbo and Tamil writer and artist based in liminal spaces. Born and raised in Nigeria, they received their MPA from New York University and was awarded a 2015 Miles Morland Writing Scholarship. They won the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Africa. Their work has been published in various literary magazines, including Granta. Freshwater is their debut novel.