Freshwater by Akwake Emezi, a review


I’ve heard a lot about Akwaeke Emezi recently, and I had thought that my first read from them was going to be Pet (which sounds absolutely amazing and I NEED TO READ IT!) but instead it was Freshwater. This story follows Ada who has multiple entities from the Mothergod Ala inside of her. She begins her life in southern Nigeria after being prayed into existence, but her life is no easy ride.


I picked this up specifically for the fuck slut shaming prompt for the Fuckathon, and although it covers many different topics this will be the one I talk about first. There is sex positivity in this book, with our main character Ada having sex freely with both men and women and feeling no shame, she is also slut shamed by those around her but she sticks to her guns and doesn’t let them shame her. Also prevalent within this book is the rape of Ada. It is referred back to throughout the book as a major plot point.

The next two topics very much combine and this is spirituality and multiple personalities. This is approached by having separate beings who each narrate the story in their own chapters and are said to be linked to Jesus. I really enjoyed how they switched between “everyone” and we get to see from all of their viewpoints. The first have been sent by Ala, the others crystallise after traumatic events and this changes how they act and interact with Ada’s life. I can’t say much more about this without spoiling the plot but the presence of these different viewpoints is utilised incredibly well throughout the story.

The one “diverse” topic within this book that I have personal experience with is depression, and so this is the one where I can comment on the representation. I think the metaphors used are incredibly well done and unique, Emezi deep dives into the mind and I love their approach to this topic and also how they depicted the various people around Ada and their reactions to her depression.

The topic of racism is lightly touched upon here, with our Nigerian main character living in the US the main racist point I saw was the encouragement of relaxing and straightening her hair rather than leaving it natural. In the latter parts of the story we also delve deeper into Ada’s non-binary preferences, which have developed slowly as the plot moves through.

I of course cannot speak to the representation of most of the aspects of this book, so I recommend finding own voices reviewers to see their opinions. I’ll be doing that myself. However, Akwaeke’s website says that this is an autobiographical novel which suggests that she is writing this as an own voices author and therefore I see this as her view of her own experiences. I really enjoyed this book. It was heart wrenching, incredibly interesting and so so absorbing. I am now so excited to read Pet as I loved the writing style.

Have you read anything from Akwaeke Emezei? Have you read Freshwater? If you have tell me what you thought of them down below! I totally need to chat about this!


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