A Spell of Good Things by Ayòbámi Adébáyọ̀

Estimated read time 5 min read

A Spell of Good Things… and a spell of very bad things. If you picked up this book because you saw its happy-sounding title and thought, why not, I feel sorry for you in advance. I promise that you’ll cry your eyes out before you finish- that is if you simply don’t rip up the book in anger at the sad story.

Because that’s what it is- A Spell of Good Things is a sad book, the saddest book I’ve read since Buchi Emecheta’s Joys of Motherhood. And, it’s no surprise that it’s come from this genre- African Literature. I’ve heard many readers complain that stories written by black authors are sad and depressing. But then, the real-world African stories that the books portray are just as sad and depressing, perhaps even more. Every African, whether born high or low, can relate to these stories. The stories are real, regardless of how many thousands of dollars sit in your domiciliary account or whether you had nothing to eat the previous night.

African authors simply must tell these stories, for there is no else to do so if they do not. Our histories are warped, written by our conquerors as they are, and more vestiges of our culture are eroded with every member of the new generation born. We gaze to the West, enchanted by the baubles we see, and every day, we lose more and more of ourselves. Now we are mere husks, scrambling around to patch together the fluttering pieces of badly faded loincloth, consulting everyone and everything else but ourselves in our quest to rediscover- ironically- ourselves.

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We simply must look within! And, it is through the stories that our writers tell that we can discover how and why we fell. Therein lies the answer to freedom and exaltation.

Synopsis

Set at the start of the 21st century, against the backdrop of the world’s most enigmatic Black nation’s umpteenth reentry into democratic rule, A Spell of Good Things centers around the lives of two families poles apart in affluence and influence.

Although their lives are as far apart as the East is from the West, the threads of mysterious fate bring their lives together in a maelstrom of deeply unfortunate events, preluded by a spell- albeit brief- of good things.

Plot

I hereby pronounce Ayòbámi Adébáyọ̀ as the number one storyteller in contemporary African Literature. Now, listen closely. There may be better aesthetic writers whose penmanship makes your literary spines tingle with delight. But, as far as sheer storytelling goes, Ayòbámi Adébáyọ̀ commands the attention of her audience with all the imperiousness of an aged matriarch thrilling her offspring by moonlight.

The story is brilliantly told, and to be honest, I don’t think that this very tale could be told better by any author other than the impressive Ayòbámi Adébáyọ̀.

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Themes

Much has been made of the recent trend of African authors to write books that deal primarily with themes of feminism and female marginalization. While I do not condemn this, as it is indeed a pressing African reality, I insist that these problems are only part of a larger network of issues of which poverty, bad governance, and the figurative Underworld are major nodes.

A Spell of Good Things strongly features themes of several cultural practices and inclinations that foster a general sense of female inferiority and male autocracy in society.

There’s also the issue of the national administrative incompetence that leads to the sack of thousands of schoolteachers and the mass unemployment and hardship that follows. Is poverty a crime? While criminality will and should always be frowned on and prosecuted, what happens when truly honest folk are driven to it out of desperation?

The worst evil can sometimes result from the best intentions, and one wonders who to blame for the disaster at the end of the book. Is it the Nigerian government’s eternally-myopic planning for the education sector? Or is the inherent traits of devilry and evil that have never been lacking throughout the long and varied history of homo sapiens?

Characters

Note: This section may have some slight micro-mini spoilers, so please be warned.

Is Wura really dumb to have sunk so far into the mire, ignoring all the warning signs? Or perhaps she was a victim of her upbringing, shackled with the manacles of cultural appropriation?

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What about Eniola, raised in poverty abject enough to make a church mouse twitch whiskers in pity? Is Kunle an evil man or an obsessive lover? Or is he a man plagued with demons?

Is Eniola’s father a lazy man, Yeye overindulgent, and Motara spoilt? Did Otunba make a bad choice in choosing family and a potentially ruinous union for an ultimately fatal end? And, can Honorable Fesojaiye be blamed for opting to wield a weapon that nearly all of the country’s politicians have so commonized?

Find out more within the pages of this book!

Final Thoughts

I will applaud the author, once again, on her fearless use of indigenous Yoruba. It’s beautiful, unapologetic, and a token of affection to her first audience- the Yoruba of West Africa. I only suggest that in future editions (if there will be any), the book contains a glossary of the native and English Creole words used in the text.

It’s hard to pick either this book or Stay With Me as my favorite book written by the author so far. However, I think A Spell of Good Things just about edges it out.

P.S.: I recommend this book to every one of Nigeria’s thieving political class.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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