Grove Atlantic (US)
February 13, 2018

custom cover art by ruby onyinyechi amanze | author portrait by elizabeth wirija

Faber & Faber (UK), November 2018
Farafina Books (Nigeria), May 2018
Eichborn Verlag (Germany), Fall 2018


Ada has always been unusual. As an infant in southern Nigeria, she is a source of deep concern to her family. Her parents successfully prayed her into existence, but something must have gone awry, as the young Ada becomes a troubled child, prone to violent fits of anger and grief. But Ada turns out to be more than just volatile. Born “with one foot on the other side,” she begins to develop separate selves. When Ada travels to America for college, a traumatic event crystallizes the selves into something more powerful. As Ada fades into the background of her own mind and these alters—now protective, now hedonistic—move into control, Ada’s life spirals in a dangerous direction.

Written with stylistic brilliance and based in the author's realities, this raw and extraordinary debut explores the metaphysics of identity and being, plunging the reader intothe mysteries of self. Unsettling, heart-wrenching, dark, and powerful, Freshwater dazzles with ferocious energy and serpentine grace, heralding the arrival of a fierce new literary voice.

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An Indie Next Selection
Named One of the Best Books to Read This Winter by ELLE
Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2018 by Esquire, the Huffington Post, the Millions, Cosmopolitan, The Rumpus, Electric Lit, Bustle, Buzzfeed, Book Riot, and more.


"A gorgeous, unsettling look into the human psyche, richly conceived yet accessible to all." — Library Journal (starred review)

“In her mind-blowing debut, 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 (...) Emezi’s brilliance lies not just in her expert handling of the conflicting voices in Ada’s head but in delivering an entirely different perspective on just what it means to go slowly mad. Complex and dark, this novel will simultaneously challenge and reward lovers of literary fiction. A must-read.” — Booklist (starred review)

“[An] enthralling, metaphysical debut novel . . . Emezi’s talent is undeniable. She brilliantly depicts the conflict raging in the ‘marble room’ of Ada’s psyche, resulting in an impressive debut.”—Publishers Weekly

"Freshwater is a clarion call to those of us who find that our minds are more haunted and complex than that of the status quo. In exquisite, unearthly prose, Akwaeke Emezi renders the ordinary strange and the strange, ordinary—making Freshwater the most stunning debut novel I've read in years. An unforgettable literary experience." — Esmé Weijun Wang, author of The Border of Paradise

"In Emezi's remarkable debut novel, Freshwater, we enter the lives of our protagonist, starting in Nigeria and ending in the United States. Every page is imbued with radiant prose, and a chorus of poetic voices. With a plot as alive and urgent as it is relatable, Freshwater is also solidly its own, brims with its unique preoccupations. Never before have I read a novel like it -- one that speaks to the unification and separation of bodies and souls, the powers or lack thereof of gods and humans, and the long and arduous journey to claiming our many selves, or to setting our many selves free." — Chinelo Okparanta, author of Under The Udala Trees

"Freshwater is one of those dazzling novels that defies these kinds of descriptions. We can gesture to the story -- set in Nigeria and America, told by all the selves of its Tamil/Igbo protagonist -- but such synthesis fails to convey the magic that awaits its reader. At once fiction and memoir, potent in its spiritual richness and sexual frankness, the text seems not to have been written by but channeled through its brilliant author. This may be Emezi's debut novel but she is an old -- an ancient -- storyteller: thrillingly at home in the tradition of griots, poets, seers and seekers." — Taiye Selasi, author of Ghana Must Go

“Nigerian-born author Emezi presents an emotionally charged debut with her novel, Freshwater . . . Emezi’s prose is vibrant and terrifying; she portrays Ada’s tribulations with breathtaking detail. Freshwater is a novel of unforgiving spirituality told in a manner that is sophisticated, precise and elegant.”—IndiePicks Magazine

"Akwaeke Emezi is a major, exhilarating talent." — NoViolet Bulawayo, author of We Need New Names

"With this stunning debut, Akwaeke Emezi has blessed us with nothing less than a masterpiece. Freshwater is a journey of loss and reconciliation, home and heartbreak, and ultimately a survivor's guide to harmonizing spirit and flesh. Quite simply a gorgeous, elegant, and brutal work of truthtelling. To repeat: a fucking masterpiece." — Daniel José Older, New York Times bestselling author of the Shadowshaper Cypher series

"What if we were not one person, but three in one body—created by careless gods who forgot to 'close the gate'? Akwaeke Emezi’s novel, Freshwater, paints a fiercely unique,unforgettable story of identity, mental health and the world beyond ours. This impressive debut is lyrical and well-told." — Tananarive Due, author of Ghost Summer

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