Thursday, April 19, 2018

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

In this astounding debut novel, the story of a young woman as she comes of age unfolds in a completely unique and beautiful way. The novel begins with the voices called "We" and tell the story of their "birth" or their awakening into a human called "the Ada", who we soon discover is a woman with many voices and personalities that live in her head. Each chapter in the book is told by one of many versions of herself and through this narration we are told the story of Ada's childhood as one of three children born to a Nigerian father and a Malaysian mother.

Her parents separate when Ada is still a child and we see how traumatizing that is for Ada through the "We"voices in her head. Over the course of the story, we find out details of Ada's childhood that shed some light on how she became "sectioned" by these gods that lived inside her mind. After her mother abandons the family to work in Saudi Arabia, her father remains completely distant and Ada retreats further into many selves. When she is old enough for college, she travels to America where she experiences a trauma so profound that yet another "god" comes to life in her mind. This god is named Asughara and is a deeply self destructive version of Ada. Throughout the years that follow her trauma, Ada is controlled by Asughara, among the other voices and becomes involved in one self destructive situation after the other, abusing substances, self-harming her body through cutting and casual sexual encounters, and taking delight in hurting others along her own destructive path.

I found this book so stunning and captivating from the first page that it was difficult for me to know how to really summarize it or review it. While I was reading it, I found that I could be completely confounded by what was happening in it while also coming to a deep understanding of what Ada was going through. It was really a remarkable feeling. The writing style made me think of recent novels like Rabih Alameddine's "The Angel of History" and Eimear McBride's "A Girl is a Half Formed Thing" and I got a stream of consciousness sense from the pacing and the strangeness of it. Emezi is a skilled and talented writer with a unique voice. This is a book that needs to be experienced. I recommend it for anyone who is looking for a truly unique and unforgettable read.

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