An extraordinary debut novel, Freshwater explores the surreal experience of having a fractured self. It centers 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.” Unsettling, heartwrenching, dark, and powerful, Freshwater is a sharp evocation of a rare way of experiencing the world, one that illuminates how we all construct our identities.
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 America 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-move into control, Ada’s life spirals in a dark and dangerous direction.
Akwaeke Emezi is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Death of Vivek Oji. Their first novel, Freshwater, which was named a New York Times Notable Book and shortlisted for the PEN/Hemingway Award, the NYPL Young Lions Fiction Award, the Lambda Literary Award, and the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize, and longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award, the Women’s Prize for Fiction, the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, the Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize, the Wellcome Book Prize, the Aspen Words Literary Prize, and the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award. Freshwater was also named a Best Book of the Decade by BuzzFeed and a Best Book of the Year by The New Yorker, NPR, and the Chicago Public Library. Emezi’s second book, Pet, was a finalist for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Selected as a 5 Under 35 honoree by the National Book Foundation, Emezi has been profiled by Vogue (for which they were photographed by Annie Leibovitz) and by Vanity Fair as part of “The New Hollywood Guard.” Freshwater has been translated into ten languages and is currently in development as a TV series at FX, with Emezi writing and executive producing with Tamara P. Carter.