Ayobami Adebayo’s latest novel A Spell of Good Things is set in her homeland of Nigeria and positions two seemingly dissimilar characters in proximity to one another in a way that changes them both. Teenage Eniola struggles with the reality of his family’s poverty. The novel opens with the young boy being spat upon by a newspaper vendor who is tired of the family asking for papers on credit. The other central character, a 28-year-old doctor named Wuraola, comes from money and is set to marry her love, Kunie, against a backdrop of expectations that keeps her from truly being herself.
Adebayo’s writing is vibrant but there are many characters and subplots to follow which may throw off some readers. This style was familiar to me having read other Nigerian writers including China Achebe and Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie, but the book is dense and the pace is slow. One reviewer suggested chopping 100 pages off the link and breaking the book into short stories for greater urgency, and I tend to agree.
Still, the book examines class and political corruption, abusive relationships and family dynamics, and poverty and violence in a way that makes the world of the novel come to life. You will absolutely feel you have “seen” the world of A Spell of Good Things.