Publisher: Grove Press
Freshwater is about Ada, a young person born in Nigeria whose body has mysteriously been inhabited by Gods. We watch Ada grow up and move to America for college both from the perspective of Ada, and from the perspective of the “we” – the collective name for the Gods. However, subsequent to a traumatic experience whilst at college, there is a further split of self, with one God in particular taking up more space within Ada’s mind and body.
This book is a unique exploration into identity, sexuality, mental health, self mutilation, suicide and the effects of sexual assault and rape, so if these are triggers for you, then I would either research more into the book before reading, or avoid if that’s best for you. Having being affected by some of these categories myself, I found it a difficult, but ultimately rewarding read.
The timeline is often difficult to follow as it jumps around a fair amount, which makes following the story somewhat confusing. On the other hand, if you can manage to stick with it, I feel it is worth it. I have always been a fan of unconventional formats, so the novel particularly works for me, but if you prefer something more linear then it may not necessarily be for you (although I would strongly urge you give it a chance!)
Akwaeke Emezi has pulled something really special off with this novel. Their representations of identity and sexuality are deeply emotional, visceral and often relatable and it is one of the few books that has made me cry. I truly believe this book deserves its place on the Women’s Prize Longlist and sincerely recommend it to those of you who feel strong enough to read it.
In writing this review, and revisiting everything I love about the novel, I have increased my rating from four stars to five stars, which highlights its ability, as a piece of literature, to remain with you and make you think. I hope we see more works of fiction from Emezi in the future, because they are a fantastic storyteller.