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I came across Freshwater some months ago,and what intrigued me was its title,it was on Instagram. Since I follow alot of book reviewers,I usually get distracted by other books,so I ignored Freshwater for a few more months. Then I got the chance to read the pdf version online just last week. Since then,I’ve been so anxious to write about it on the blog.
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi tells the story of Ada, a Nigerian human who is born with a chorus of divine gods and goddesses within her. Ada’s story is told in retrospect from three perspectives: that of “the We,” who are the gods inside of Ada; that of Ashughara, one of the gods who breaks free from the collective chorus; and that of Ada herself, who struggles to find her individual sense of self amidst the many voices within her.
The igbo beliefs of ‘Ogbanje’ is reflected in this book in the character Ada. An ogbanje is a reincarnating spirit that would deliberately plague a family with misfortune. In folklore,the ogbanje upon being born by the mother, under a certain amount of time (usually before puberty), would deliberately die and then come back and repeat the cycle, causing the family grief. This time period varies between minutes, hours, days and years. Female circumcision was sometimes thought to get rid of the evil spirit, whereas finding the evil spirits ‘iyi-uwa’, which they have dug somewhere secret, would ensure the ogbanje would never plague the family with misfortune again. The Iyi-uwa is a stone that the ogbanje’s way of coming back to the world and also a way of finding its targeted family. The stone is deep enough to not have been planted physically by a child. The iyi-uwa is dug out by a priest and destroyed. Furthermore, female ogbanje die during pregnancies along with the baby, male ogbanje die before the birth of a wife’s baby or the baby dies. The child is confirmed to no longer be an ogbanje after the destruction of the stone or after they successfully give birth to another baby.
Ada,a child who managed to survive the stages of being an Ogbanje,lived up to her adult age. While reading,we see a series of multiple personalities in her.
I find this book really interesting,I enjoyed reading it because of the shifting perspectives. I got to know the inner minds of the characters in the book;even Soran(a character). The book is a bit relatable,because,deep down we as individuals often feel that our actions are not of our own doing. It sometimes feel as if we have multiple personalities. I think deep down,we do have multiple personalities..
The iyi-uwa was a special stone that formed a link between the ogbanje and the spirit world. It was believed that once the iyi-uwa is discovered, the child in question would not die.
The Iyi-uwa was also mentioned in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.When Okagbue found Ezinma’s iyi-uwa, the people knew Ezinma’s troubles were over.
This compound object is called the iyi-ụwa, the oath of the world. It is a promise we made when we were free and floating, before we entered the Ada. The oath says that we will come back, that we will not stay in this world, that we are loyal to the other side.Page 16
Humans who have sense always look for the iyi-ụwa, so they can dig it up or pull it from flesh, from wherever secret place it was kept, so they can destroy it, so their child’s body will not die. If Ala’s womb holds the underworld, then the iyi-ụwa is the shortcut back into it. If the Ada’s human parents found it and destroyed it, we would never be able to go home.Page 16
Freshwater is about the conflict between two forces. We can relate it to the conflict between light and darkness,or good and bad. This is seen majorly in page 64 of the novel.
At the end of the novel,I realised that you can’t really pick out the antagonist,because,we get to know the spirit’s personality through the narration. There were times when I felt angry at what the spirits were doing to Ada,and other times,It felt like they were protecting Ada.
HIGHLY, highly recommend picking this book up if you haven’t already thought of doing so! ❤