Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

I’ve literally just finished this incredible book (at the time of writing, I have a backlog of posts scheduled right now) and I’m not sure how to express how truly astounding it was as a debut.

Freshwater draws heavily on the author’s own experiences and deals with the subject of living with a fractured self. It’s left ambiguous and the book refers to Nigerian concepts of ogbanje children, but my assumption is that the central character, Ada, is living with a form of dissociative identity disorder as a result of childhood trauma- but that’s my interpretation as someone coming from a very British background and I would happily be corrected. The story is narrated by several ‘selves’ within Ada, and occasionally Ada herself, who talk about the destructive behaviours they carry out over the course of Ada’s journey to adulthood as the people they find and lose along the way. 

Freshwater is a beautifully written book and I’d agree with the praise I’ve read so far that it’s shocking that this is the author’s debut. It’s lyrical and poetic and angry, but most of all a powerful testament to how people can survive.

It’s not an easy book to read, and I’d attach several trigger warnings (sexual abuse, self harm, suicide attempts, body dysmorphia, references to bimisia), but it’s a powerful story about identity, love and self destruction.


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