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
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.
Gods torment the young woman they inhabit in Emezi's enthralling, metaphysical debut novel. Ada has been occupied by a chorus of ogbanje her "godly parasite with many heads" since her birth, but it is only after she leaves Nigeria for a college in Virginia that the ogbanje begin to take over. The libidinous Asughara is the most forceful, emerging after a sexual assault has turned Ada into "a gibbering thing in a corner" to become "the weapon over the flesh" that will prevent her from being hurt again. Asughara guides Ada through a tormented love affair with an Irish tennis player that culminates in a marriage doomed by Asughara's overprotection. Divorced, Ada begins cutting her arm as she did in childhood, feeding the ogbanje with "the sacrifices that were necessary to keep" them quiet. But the bloodletting fails to quell their thirst to "go home"; Asughara is intent instead on freeing her ghastly cohort by manipulating Ada into suicide. Though some readers may find the correlation between mental illness and the ogbanje limiting, others will view this as a poetic and potent depiction of mental illness. Emezi's talent is undeniable. She brilliantly depicts the conflict raging in the "marble room" of Ada's psyche, resulting in an impressive debut.
This author writes brilliantly like Nabokov with an appealing freshness of imagination. If you read this book like a physician, it seems to be about a woman with Dissociative Identity Disorder. But the possibility that she was born with open portals to the other side which allowed various characters into her brain was stunning. The protagonist’s abuse history comes out in drips and drabs, just as in real life. This was shockingly good.
I loved the book. I’m glad i purchased it. I will purchase a paper copy too. The author’s writing is beautiful. As a queer psychotherapist of color, I appreciated how she immersed culture, metaphysics, mental health, and identity all in one. This became one of my favorite books of all time.
This is my new favorite book. I know bc it seems like I can read it all over again and I just finished it. Beautifully written.... satirical, spiritual, thought provoking, mirroring, us as human beings or a tale of the divine. Overall just beautiful.