April 03, 2009

Everything Good Will Come by Sefi Atta | Book Review

Enitan Bandele, Atta’s protagonist in her debut novel Everything Good Will Come, begins her story from age eleven, just before her first period, at the onset of both her attraction to the opposite sex and her friendship with Sheri Bakare, a rude and precocious eleven years old girl who lives next door. Enitan’s (pronounced Eni-ton) parents have their share of marital problems and she can’t wait to leave her miserable home for the boarding house.

After High School, London University and a few failed relationships she returns to Nigeria, to meet separated parents, the “nuisances” of Lagos and a nation in turmoil. Coups, suffering masses, fuel-scarcity, poor educational infrastructures, widespread corruption and many ills plague the nation even as it staggers under the dictatorial rule of the military. Initially everything seems to be going smoothly, a job with her father, a new beau and a resumed relationship with her childhood friend Sheri. Then she becomes unsatisfied and unhappy with the paltry sum her father pays despite her foreign degree, unhappy with the working conditions in her dad’s office and all over the country and later on she's unwilling to sit and watch. She gets married but refuses to be a “kitchen martyr”, refuses to be under total subjection to her husband. She’s repulsed by the way women give up their lives once they become hitched to become soulless beings. When her husband refuses to “let” her pursue her activism, she takes her young daughter and leaves him. But that’s not how the book ends…

Everything Good Will Come is very, very Nigerian in its telling. It’s not “westernized”. It’s refreshing. It’s like reading from someone who lives around the corner, who uses phrases like - “God saved all of you”, “Juju-ed”, “Like joke, like joke”… Sefi has done a fantastic job of describing Lagos, Nigeria. It’s so vivid you can see it all.

Everything Good Will Come is humourous and interesting but not “un-put-down-able”. Atta has a love for Lagos evident in this novel and the subsequent one (I read her second book before this). It’s a backdrop she seems to find irresistible. Like Swallow (Atta’s second book, published in 2009. READ my review HERE), Everything Good Will Come has Sefi showing Lagos as it is – dirty, overpopulated, corrupt, diverse but still lovable. So despite the fact that Atta has earned a reputation for being unpredictable in her story telling, her protagonists now seem to have a predictable trait. In Swallow and Everything Good Will Come, Atta’s female protagonists are irritated with the decay in their country and very much in love with Lagos city despite its maddening chaos.

However, Everything Good Will Come still remains the work of a gifted writer who weaves humour into her tales so that they are never too depressing. Atta’s debut novel has given her local and international recognition. Now, everyone’s waiting to see what Will Come.

[Image via FantasticFiction.co.uk]