Jan 31, 2013

Everything Good Will Come by Sefi Atta – A Review


December 2007, Fiction
Interlink Books, 335 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1566567046, Available on Amazon

Everything Good Will Come is Sefi Atta’s debut novel set in Lagos, Nigeria. This is the story of Enitan; born on the eve of her country’s independence. Through her eyes we witness the changes the young republic and her citizens go through – military coups, the rise of an indigenous ruling class, political activism and so forth.

Enitan’s father, Sunny Taiwo, is an ambitious lawyer with a destructive rebellious streak and her mother, Mama Taiwo, a fanatic who uses religion as an escape from past hurts. As a child Enitan is sheltered, naïve and spoiled; her parents use her as a proxy in their fights, each vying for her undivided loyalty.

The book opens in 1971, the summer before Enitan leaves for boarding school. She meets her neighbour, Sheri; a vivacious girl whose freedom as the oldest child in a large family challenges the relative comfort of Enitan’s sheltered life. They become fast friends and this friendship carries through their years in boarding school and later life.

We follow Enitan as she leaves for university in England, starts working, and later makes the decision to return to Nigeria. It is when she returns to Nigeria that much of the story takes place. Working in her father’s law firm as an underpaid associate, she makes tentative steps towards independence which brings her into collision with Sunny. Sunny, though vocal about the need for personal freedoms doesn’t take well to his own daughter challenging his authority at work and in the office.

Sheri on the other hand has lived through two major life altering experiences which change her prospects for education, career and marriage. She’s bold and assertive, owning her decisions and living as best she can. Sheri does not allow herself to be a victim and this speaks well for her as she tries to navigate in a world whose structures are often unfair to women.

It is through her friendship with Sheri and others such as the men in her life, and her changed worldview that Enitan comes into her own. She sees herself as an active participant in her country, and starts to speak out about injustices even at personal risk. By the end of the novel she is no longer the little girl who sits at the Lagos Lagoon “on its cockle plastered edge” flinging her fishing rod made from tree branch, string and cork from a discarded wine bottle. She is fully matured, and makes decisions that affect her, not minding the consequences.

The latter part of this book really spoke to me. Seeing Enitan transcend the limitations placed on her by her parents and later her husband was rewarding. She asserts her individuality and doesn’t scurry into hiding when she’s called upon to act decisively.

This book was a great recommendation. I knew I wouldn’t be steered wrong by an author so highly spoken of by Tsitsi Dangarembga.  

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