By Akwaeke Emezi – Nigeria (hardback £10)
Ada is the second child of Saul, a Nigerian doctor, and his Malaysian wife Saachi, a nurse. When Ada is still a child, Saachi leaves to work abroad, first in Saudi Arabia and then in the UK. Although she visits her family in Nigeria once or twice each year, she will never again live in the home she once made with her proud and impatient husband. At 16, Ada also leaves Nigeria, for the United States, where she spends her turbulent college years in Virginia. All the while, there is a claim on her head , “for being born incorrectly, for not returning, for crossing the ocean sifted with death”. While the effects of this claim might read like a curse, they are really a manifestation of a demand that she follow a predestined path. Ada is an ogbanje, a spirit child who is born repeatedly to the same parents, taunting and torturing them with many reincarnations. While most ogbanjes die as children, Ada survives into adulthood, constantly struggling against a pull towards self-annihilation.
When Ada finds a measure of peace, it is not a consequence of eliminating any of her selves: instead, it emanates from accepting that she is “a village full of faces and a compound full of bones, translucent thousands”. When we return to Nigeria, the narrator is Ada: not the tortured Ada who made her way tentatively into earlier chapters in the form of poems and diary entries, but a voice infused with We’s poetic cadence and Asughara’s blistering yet intimate tone. It is a fitting culmination for the extraordinary journeyFreshwater charts, a manifestation of Ada’s realisation that she is irrevocably an amalgamation of all her varied and even divergent selves. 240pp