You know that Pixar movie where the girl has all the people in her head? Mad, sad and happy or something. And it’s really funny but poignant? Well, Freshwater is sort of like that. Except it’s for adults and some of the people in the girl’s head are rather malicious. Also, they’re actually gods, born and trapped into human flesh.
This book was absolutely breathtaking and so heartbreakingly beautifully written.
Twin gods born into ‘the Ada’, as they call the girl they live inside, start the telling of the story. They take us through her childhood in Nigeria and the first part of her college education in the United States.
A traumatic event sees another god born into Ada’s mind – Asụghara. Asụghara is strong, she will protect the Ada and make sure she is never hurt again. But Asughura is also nasty and has certain appetites that need to be met.
Described as an autobiographical novel, Freshwater is the story of a traumatised young woman whose mind fractures in order to protect her. The arc follows Ada’s descent into a necessary madness and her desperate attempts to claw her way out again.
I adored the imagery and the complete disregard for reality or conventions. The ‘marble room’ of Ada’s mind is where gods are born and where Ada retreats to, allowing her alternate selves to control her body instead. Its smooth, cool walls shelter her and her internal gods but they are also a self-made prison which will cause her even more heartbreak along the way.
The tone of the first section floats and wafts like the shadows that are the twin gods who narrate it. The next section, where we’re flung into the arms and voice of Asụghara, is much more solid, reflecting this new god’s fury and disdain for all things human.
The merging of reality with unreality, combined with gorgeous writing, reminded me of reading Anna Spargo-Ryan’s brilliant first novel, The Paper House, a story of a woman who descends into madness after the stillbirth of her first child.
I highly recommend Freshwater – I devoured it as quickly as I could and was left feeling quite stunned, but thoroughly satisfied, when it ended.
Disclosure: I received a copy from the publisher for the purpose of review. This post contains affiliate links.