An extraordinary debut novel, Freshwater explores the surreal experience of having a fractured self. It centres 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."
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 the United States for college, the group of selves within her grows in power and agency. A traumatic assault leads to a crystallization of her alternate selves: Asughara and Saint Vincent. As Ada fades into the background of her own mind and these selves — now protective, now hedonistic — take control, Ada's life spirals in a dark and dangerous direction.
Told from the perspectives of the various selves within Ada, and closely based on the author's own personal experiences, Freshwater explores the metaphysics of identity and mental health, plunging the reader into the mystery of being and self. (From Grove Press)
- The best international fiction of 2018
- The CBC Books spring reading list: 12 books you should read this season
From the book
We came from somewhere — everything does. When the transition is made from spirit to flesh, the gates are meant to be closed. It's a kindness. It would be cruel not to. Perhaps the gods forgot; they can be absentminded like that. Not maliciously — at least, not usually. 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 don't pay much attention to it, except when it is collected, organized and souled.
By the time she (our body) struggled out into the world, slick and louder than a village of storms, the gates were left open. We should have been anchored in her by then, asleep inside her membranes and synched with her mind. That would have been the safest way. But since the gates were open, not closed against remembrance, we became confused. We were at once old and newborn. We were her and yet not. We were not conscious but we were alive — in fact, the main problem was that we were a distinct we instead of being fully and just her.
So there she was: a fat baby with thick, wet black hair. And there we were, infants in this world, blind and hungry, partly clinging to her flesh and the rest of us trailing behind in streams, through the open gates. We've always wanted to think that it was a careless thing the gods did, rather than a deliberate neglect. But what we think barely matters, even being who we are to them: their child.
From Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi ©2018. Published by Grove Press.