In a brutal fashion similar to Khaled Hosseini’s, Ayobami Adebayo’s A Spell of Good Things turns out to be a compendium of emotions detailing the travails of a family under an attack by poverty propelled by the government’s retrenchment of the family’s head, Baba Eniola from his work as a history teacher.

Another family, the Makinwas, faces the peculiar troubles of the rich; especially with their daughter, Wuraola, battling gender-based violence from her husband-to-be, Kunle.

The novel is another promising tale that tells what Achebe called ‘The Trouble With Nigeria’; a bad leadership that resulted in giving the populace a poor healthcare system, bad roads, unemployment, epileptic power supply, poor education, and a general lack of need fulfillment among the people.

Crafted into four parts, each part is titled after a famous Nigerian novel. Part One is named after Seffi Attah’s Everything Good Will Come; Part Two after Chika Unigwe’s On Black Sisters’ Street; Part Three after Helon Habila’s Waiting For An Angel; Part Four after Teju Cole’s Every Day Is For The Thief. The prologue (Kinsman) and the epilogue (Foreman) were titled after T. M Aluko’s Kinsman and Foreman.

While reading, the story was hurting me and I couldn’t stop. It was compelling so I had to read till the end. I was reading with fear. Fear of hurt that may befall Wuraola or Eniola. Never felt such emotions while reading for a long long time. It was not by mistake that the book was considered for the 2023 Booker Prize. We have elite literature here written with utmost simplicity.

While other pupils were writing the common entrance exam to join the secondary school from primary five, Eniola was encouraged by his father to complete the six years of primary education with the promise of enrolling him in Unity School once he completed it. Eniola was not the type to keep mum on promises made to him by his parents. And most of the promises were not fulfilled and his friends would use them as trolls against him. ‘Unity’ was one of his nicknames as none of his friends witnessed his enrolment into Unity School. After losing his job, Eniola’s father never managed to secure another. The father gave up on working as his mother turned to begging.

His younger sister, Busola, loved school, loved reading, and was a brighter student than him. Thus, she was a dissent when it came to tempering with her school fees. She would disturb the parents, unlike the obedient Eniola who never go against them. When constrained by the means to afford the school fees of their two kids in the cheapest private school in the neighbourhood, the parents chose Busola over Eniola who was afterwards sent to a public school. He was pained and devastated that after all the good boy gestures he had shown and his obedience toward his parents, now that was time to choose between him and his sister, his sister was favoured.

Sending Eniola to a public school exposed him to a new kind of life. He could escape classes (which teachers rarely attend, anyway) and move to the street. He found solace in the street after meeting some teenage thugs in the school. The street gave him food. The street gave him some clothes and money which he used to send himself back to his former school. But the street was no ‘Father Christmas’.

Eniola would soon find himself recruited into political thuggery. He was sent in the company of others to assassinate Otunba Makinwa, the husband of Yéyé Makinwa, a woman who had been kind to him. Eniola ran away in the middle of the assassination that earlier looked like an abduction. For backing out, his sister, Busola was abducted and murdered.

The book is a heartbreaking tale, perhaps, the only happiness was when Wuraola decided to leave Kunle after a night of merciless beating.

In this book, Ayobami Adebayo attempts to educate readers that life is war and a series of battles with the occasional spell of good things. To lovers of domestic fiction and those with an interest in the socioeconomic and sociopolitical Nigeria, this book is recommended. I will rate it 4/5. Let me end this with an excerpt from the novel where the author echoed this through the character of Yéyé:

“She had always marvelled at his calm assurance that everything good in his life would either remain the same or get better. He took good fortune for granted. As though it were impossible that it would abide only for a spell. She had never been able to shake the sense that life was war, a series of battles with the occasional spell of good things.”

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