During her 2018 interview by NPR, Freshwater author Akwaeke Emezi stated: “I wanted to see what it would be like to look at a life through the lens of a different reality – something that was centered more in Igbo spirituality than in Western concepts of mental health, for example. And so, I used my life as the skeleton, chronologically at least”.

What an excellent summation of the haunting and unsettling novel. Full disclosure, Freshwater was challenging for me.  Even though, the masterfully crafted story was original and imaginative; I found it too complex and abstract.  It was a novel, in which I had to zero in and reread the paragraphs to completely comprehend.  Every single world held importance.

The novel centers on Ada, a woman born and raised in Nigeria, with a plethora of different personalities that live within her.  The multitudes of personalities identify themselves as “we” and the story’s perspective jumps between Ada and them. The book touches on binge drinking, childhood trauma, health, eating disorders, gender dysphoria, mental health, sexual trauma and spirituality.  Throughout the novel, Ada struggles with her multiple selves, eventually learning to embrace her whole identity. 

I appreciated the book for its originality and recommend it for a different perspective on mental health. 

I’ll end with a few of my favorite passages:

“ He was only a human – what else could I expect, realistically? He wanted to pretend he was somehow better than he knew he was; he wasn’t ready to throw himself into sin. Humans find it easier to just lie and lie to themselves”.

“ All fresh water comes out of the mouth of a python”.

Did you read this book?  What did you think?

Interested in learning more about the book and author? Check out the 2018 NPR interview: