Akwaeke Emezi

fiction literary
challenging dark mysterious slow-paced

229 pages | first published 2018

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: Asụghara 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.

Narrated by the various selves within Ada and based in the author's realities, Freshwater dazzles with ferocious energy and serpentine grace, heralding the arrival of a fierce new literary voice.

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dark 89%
emotional 73%
challenging 70%
reflective 60%
sad 35%
mysterious 29%
tense 27%
informative 6%
inspiring 6%
adventurous 5%
hopeful 4%
funny 1%


medium 55%
slow 29%
fast 14%

Plot- or character-driven?

Character: 92% | A mix: 7%

Strong character development?

Yes: 76% | It's complicated: 22% | No: 1%

Loveable characters?

It's complicated: 70% | Yes: 22% | No: 7% | N/A: 0%

Diverse cast of characters?

Yes: 92% | It's complicated: 4% | No: 2% | N/A: 1%

Flaws of characters a main focus?

Yes: 88% | It's complicated: 11% | N/A: 0%

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