Imprint: Grove Press, New York Review by Shwetha H S
The debut novel of Akwaeke Emezi i.e. Freshwater deserves all the praise that it has garnered. It is not your PR pumped book. Even if it is, it is not necessary for the readers to like it unless it is well written. I, a reader, like it. In fact, I love it. It had been a long time since I had last read a book that had good narration. Just like the protagonist of the story, you won’t know what is happening, what to feel, what is the right thing to do.
Freshwater revolves around a character called Ada, whose name means precious or an egg of a python. Why python? Because, in Igbo langauge, python is Ala, the mother of Ogbanje, an evil spirit. That is all the background I can give you in this book review. If I talk more, I will give out the whole story. No, I won’t do that. Because I want you to read this book. As you start reading the story, I didn’t understand what is happening, in and around Ada. After an unpleasant incident, Ada starts to behave differently, as if she is not herself. Now, the narrator keeps telling that they are Ogbanje. But I had my doubts. Whether Ada has multiple personality disorder or is possessed by the spirits. The first personality is a pair actually. Next, along with her orgasm comes another personality, a dominant one, called Asughara. This is an extremely sexualised personality that comes into picture whenever Ada is having sex with anyone. But it rapidly and completely takes over Ada, controlling her every action, better than the previous personality pair. Right when I decided that Ada had turned into a sex addict, Saint Vincent came into the picture. Until then, Ada won’t even know this personality is there inside her. Saint Vincent is the not-so-prominent low profile Ogbanje that when gets unleashed, makes Ada a bisexually oriented person, sexually feasting on boys and girls alike. In between this, another pair of Ogbanje just come and go, making Asughara, the first pair and Saint Vincent ensure that Ada goes mad, at least to the outer world. Until the end, I wasn’t sure whether I was reading about multiple personality disorder or actually Ogbanje. But how do they do this? Why do they do this? What happens to Ada? What is her story? What is the Ogbanje? Freshwater is a mesmerizing story that leaves you numb at the same time rushing a pack of emotions through you, still making you feel nothing. Until you reach the end, at least the last few pages, you won’t know what exactly is happening. Don’t worry. I haven’t given up on the story in this review. There is a lot more to Freshwater than just Ogbanje. To make things interesting Yshwa (Jesus) and the Odinani spirits have a few conversations on how to keep Ada alive or kill.
Freshwater is a must must read! You will definitely miss a lot if you are a bibliophile and don’t read Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi. The books is set in many countries, not only Nigeria, native to Odinani. So, even if you can’t relate to terminologies, you can relate to the countries. I, for one, could relate to a lot of things. Author talks about sari, roti, etc., that are found in India too. By the way, the word freshwater is used only once in the whole book, except the title. That is in the end. You get that?