Freshwater (Emezi) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews
Remarkable and daring.… Poetic and disturbing.… Rooting Ada’s story in Igbo cosmology forces us to further question our paradigm for what causes mental illness and how it manifests. It causes us to question science and reason.
Tariro Mzezewa - New York Times


A witchy, electrifying story of danger and compulsion … Freshwater recounts the "litany of madness" suffered by Ada in a serpentine prose that proceeds by oblique, hypnotizing movements before it sinks its fangs into you.… As striking and mysterious as the ways of the gods who narrate it.… The latest standout in this exciting boom in the Nigerian novel.
Sam Sacks - Wall Street Journal


The novel is based in many of the realities of the writer’s life, but the prose is infused with imaginative lyricism and tone.… The journey undertaken in the novel is swirling and vivid, vicious and painful, and rendered by Emezi in [sharp and glittering] shards.… Emezi’s lyrical writing, her alliterative and symmetrical prose, explores the deep questions of otherness, of a single heart and soul hovering between, the gates open, fighting for peace.
Susan Straight - Los Angeles Times


Freshwater is sheer perfection: sexy, sensual, spiritual, wise. One of the most dazzling debuts I’ve ever read.
Taiye Selasi - Guardian (UK)


Akwaeke Emezi is a name you will want to remember, because surely it is one you will be hearing again and again.… A stunning and disorienting story about a broken woman trying to overcome the pain of her human life while straddling "the other side,".… Freshwater is unlike any novel I have ever read. Its shape-shifting perspective is radical and innovative, twisting the narrative voices like the bones of a python.… Emezi has not only made a rich contribution to Igbo mythology, she has crafted a novel so unique and fresh, it feels as if the medium has been reinvented.
Safa Jinje - Toronto Star


Akwaeke Emezi’s bewitching and heart-rending Freshwater is a coming-of-age novel like no other.… For anyone who has experienced life as a misfit or outcast, this is a resonant rendition.… For all its sheer invention, Freshwater feels more like an interpretive journey through uncharted territory with an experienced guide. Potent and moving, knowing and strange, this is a powerful and irresistibly unsettling debut.
David Wright - Seattle Times


A startling debut novel explores the freedom of being multiple.… Igbo spirituality, Emezi radically suggests, has as much to offer as any [Western] schemas when it comes to decrypting human folly or transcendence.… The book would have made grim sense through a mental-health lens; instead, it is an indigenous fairy tale.… The book becomes a study in dysphoria—not precisely the distress of being misgendered but the more nebulous pain of being imprisoned in a physical form, of losing your wraith-like ability to evade categorization.… There is something self-defeating about trying to trace a self that is defined by indefinability; one achievement of Emezi’s book is to make that paradox feel generously fertile.
Katy Waldman - New Yorker


Akwaeke Emezi parts the seas of the self in her engrossing debut novel, Freshwater.
Sloane Crosley - Vanity Fair


Part magical realism, part meditation on mental illness.… Ada’s struggle provides a thought-provoking and visceral exploration of life with an altered state of mind.
Harper’s Bazaar


Gods torment the young woman they inhabit in Emezi’s enthralling, metaphysical debut novel.… Though some readers may find the correlation between mental illness and the ogbanje limiting.… Emezi’s talent is undeniable …an impressive debut.
Publishers Weekly


(Starred review) Madness is often described in terms of different selves, but Emezi does something absorbingly original … showing that [gods] creep into human beings at birth.… [R]ichly conceived yet accessible to all. —Barbara Hoffert
Library Journal


[M]ind-blowing.… Emezi weaves traditional Igbo myth that turns the well-worn narrative of mental illness on its head, and in doing so she has ensured a place on the literary-fiction landscape as a writer to watch.… A must-read.
Booklist


Akwaeke Emezi’s standout first novel, Freshwater, is a riveting and peculiar variation on coming of age.…. The poetics of Emezi’s prose enhance the mythology she evokes. As enchanting as it is unsettling, Freshwater tickles all six senses. The chorus of voices narrating Ada’s life achieves a remarkable balance between cruel machinations of cavalier deities and deep empathy for the distressed vessel they inhabit.
Shelf Awareness

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