Freshwater - Akwaeke Emezi
Publisher: Grove Atlantic
Release Date: February 2018
Genre: Spiritual Fiction
Setting: Nigeria, USA
My Rating: 3 Stars
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 and these alter - now protective, now hedonistic - move in to control, Ada's life spirals in a dangerous direction (Source: Book Blurb)
This review is very difficult to write because I feel like this book has infected me with the same split personality syndrome that Ada, the main protagonist, struggles with in the story. I am torn between REALLY wanting to like it and actually not enjoying it. Even as I kept reading and losing interest in the story, an Ogbanje was in my head telling me I needed to like it. I know I am also going against the hundreds of people who have rated this book very highly.
In brief, Freshwater revolves around the life of a young Nigerian woman, Ada, who struggles with a fractured sense of self or multiple personalities caused by the many ‘gods’, ‘ogbanjes’ or ‘spirits’ that reside with her. When Ada moves to the US later in life, a traumatic sexual encounter further splits her fragile self and new personalities are born, most notably, Asughara, who controls much of the narrative.
We see Ada trying to wage a battle between herself and the various ‘gods’ that reside within her and in trying to regain some sanity, she, or the gods (the lines become blurry), veer off into a very self-destructive path of sexual exploration, lust, self-harm, suicide attempts, name it. As hard as she tries to fight them off, the gods refuse to let her go. I didn’t understand much of the ending.
The beginning of the book is quite intriguing, however, somewhere in the middle between ‘We’ and ‘Asughara’s’ narrations, I got lost. There is a lot of back and forth and issues that seem to be introduced much later in the book, like the childhood sexual abuse episode that I had to track back to check if I had missed something. This however provided some context as to how the fracturing begun. Some characters are also introduced out of nowhere and are killed off just as quick. To be honest, I was bored with the long drawn out story that I felt should have been concluded much earlier than it was. I was relieved when it ended
This is not to say that this is a bad book, especially going by all the raving reviews on Goodreads, only that I personally did not connect with it. It was not for me.