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Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi | Book Review

Title: Freshwater

Author: Akwaeke Emezi


“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.”

For this review, I’ll be taking you through some issues I found interesting enough to bring to this review. There’s a world of things to unpack in this book, but for this review, I’ll talk about the connection between the Author’s and main character’s name, the way the story was told, and ease of read.

Here we go…

The Authors Name:

I can’t talk about this book without first mentioning the name of the Author, which so happens to be the given name of the main character in the story, Ada(or The Ada as the spirits inside her like to call her).

Akwaeke is not expressly mentioned in the book, but the translation is. Ada’s father, Saul, took the suggestion of his brother, De Obinna, and gave Ada her first name, “the one with all the god in it”. Not Ada by the way.

Saul later gave Ada a rather, ‘loose and inadequate”, both correct and incorrect meaning; Precious. The way this particular part was written, it suggests that the name, Ada wasn’t actually the first name Saul gave her.

The name wasn’t mentioned in book, but the meaning was. In it’s truest form, Ada’s first same meant, ‘the egg of a python’; so says the book. In Igbo language, that’s the actual translation of ‘Akwaeke’.

The fact that the author gave Ada her own name also adds to the feeling the story gave me; that to a very large extent, the words I was reading could be real. An autobiography, if you will.

The Way The Story Was Told:

Another reason why I loved this book was the way it was written. I felt like I could hear conceited narcissistic gods telling me how they invaded a young girl’s life.

I was literally taken into the mind of a demon. We see the ‘WE’ (what the spirits refer to themselves as), calling Ada, ‘The Ada’ or ‘Our Body’, and her junior sister Anuli as ‘The Amen’.

The way the ‘We’ talked about Ada and described what they did in her life, it’s like they wouldn’t have cared less what happened to her. In their own words, “But these are gods, after all, and they don’t care about what happens to flesh, mostly because it is so slow and boring, unfamiliar and coarse.”

They may not have been referring to themselves there, but they are ‘a child’ of the gods after all, and their behaviour through out the story doesn’t show otherwise.

Was It Easy To Read?

Contary to popular experience, I actually found Freshwater an easy book to finish. I had to get used to the way it was written at first, but it intruiged me the way Emezi wrote.

I watched with eyes as wide as saucers as charcters progressed, as Ada threw tantrums, as snakes appeared in bathrooms, as pronouns changed from ‘I’ to ‘We’, and as a young girl literally faced her demons and embraced them.

My Verdict:

This book pushes you to accept who you are. You may not be an ogbanje, or have spirits inside you, but there are certain parts of ourselves that we need to accept.

It may be your skin color, your weight, body size, your bulbous or crooked nose, an amputated leg… things that may be deemed ‘not normal’, things that aren’t perfect in the eyes of others, and ourselves.

Freshwater teaches us to accept ourselves, even as we work to becoming the best version of ourselves.

I loved Asughara at first, until she started feeling guilty and went soft on me. All in all, it was a good read for me.

Have you read Freshwater yet? What did you think about it?

0 thoughts on “Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi | Book Review”

  1. I read and loved this book! It was an easy read and made me question a lot of things. It was quite an interesting book. I heard it is being made into a movie or show of sorts (?) and I cannot wait to see it!

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