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Freshwater (2018)

by Akwaeke Emezi

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7313923,697 (4.04)43
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 from the perspective of the various selves within Ada, and based in the author's realities, Freshwater explores the metaphysics of identity and mental health, plunging the reader into the mystery of being and self. Freshwater dazzles with ferocious energy and serpentine grace, heralding the arrival of a fierce new literary voice.… (more)
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» See also 43 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
Please see full review at www.coffeeandtrainspotting.wordpress.com. ( )
  SarahRita | Aug 11, 2021 |
This truly is an extrordinary novel -- the experience of which will depend significantly on the worldview of each reader.

The protagonist, Ada, has multiple personalities, personalities which are self-aware as spirits from within a specific tradition. Spirits who remember a time before they were confined within the meat body of the human girl Ada.

I first heard of the book through an online review, and that reviewer was unable to take this premise seriously. S/he had to approach the book solely as a depiction of psychological fragmentation. I, on the other hand, have known a person like Ada: someone whose multiple personalities had distinct spiritual identities, and who spoke of their shared mental space as a "cave" -- strikingly similar to the "marble room" that Ada and her spirits refer to. The fighting over the body, the need to reform the body to accommodate the identities of the spirits. . . those too are familiar to me. Each beautifully-written, emotionally challenging chapter brought with it for me a sense of shock as I encountered again and again experiences which I had heard of face-to-face.

Read it as a fantasy, as a psychological novel, or as a near documentary. . . it will still be a book well worth reading.

( )
  jsabrina | Jul 13, 2021 |
This is one of the current trend of very short literary novels, which is not my favorite trend in fiction (I'm fond of books I can have a good affair with), but in this case, the novel is so dense that it manages to fit just right within that space.

It's difficult to summarize Freshwater, which is semi-autobiographical, because it can be read two ways: through the lens of traditional Igbo spirituality (the author's primary focus) or via a Western psychiatric view, which readers will bring to it. The personalities within Ada view themselves as ogbanje--traditional spirits, that have come with her from birth. They are shaped by her trauma, and accompany her through self destruction.

At the beginning, the writing felt somewhat overworked, trying too hard to bring a particular tone and rhythm reflective of Nigerian/Igbo English, but as other voices enter the story, with their own personalities and language, it achieved a better balance. The story focuses much more on internal narrative than on dialogue, filtering events through Ada's personalities' points of view. ( )
  arosoff | Jul 11, 2021 |
Emezi’s book is creative, innovatively structured, strange — and ultimately a bit difficult to navigate in spite of its brevity. Told in alternating voices, the author sets the literary bar quite high when it comes to spinning a complex tale in a cohesive and coherent way. I wanted to enjoy “Freshwater” more than I did, but I admire the author’s effort to tackle important topics in a unique way. ( )
  brianinbuffalo | Jun 30, 2021 |
"We are three spirits inserted into Ada when she was still in her mother's womb."

My review of 'Freshwater' by Akwaeke Emezi is up on the John C Adams Reviews website now!

https://www.johncadamsreviews.com/single-post/john-c-adams-reviews-freshwater

#Freshwater #AkwaekeEmezi #African #Africa #Nigeria #nonbinary #Igbo #Tamil #writer #mentalhealth #JohnCAdamsReviews #JohnCAdams #MondayMusings #Fiction #Book #Novel #Review #Reviews ( )
  johncadamssf | Jun 7, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
This unconventional novel tells the story of Ada, a baby born of mixed parentage who arrives in the world accompanied by a chaos of spirits, awakened at her birth when the gates between the spirit world and the world of the flesh are left open. ‘The first madness was that we were born,’ they say, ‘that they stuffed a god into a bag of skin.’ By this, the spirits mean that rather than becoming a unitary whole with their host, they retain their own interests and preoccupations, as well as the wrenching awareness that they are dislocated from the realm of the gods: ‘We were sent through carelessly, with a net of knowledge snarled around our ankles, not enough to tell us anything, just enough to trip us up.’
 
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For those of us
with one foot
on the other side
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I have lived many lives inside this body.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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 from the perspective of the various selves within Ada, and based in the author's realities, Freshwater explores the metaphysics of identity and mental health, plunging the reader into the mystery of being and self. Freshwater dazzles with ferocious energy and serpentine grace, heralding the arrival of a fierce new literary voice.

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