Sefi Atta

Everything Good Will Come

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Everything Good Will Come Summary

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Everything Good Will Come is a 2005 novel by Nigerian author Sefi Atta. A bildungsroman, or coming of age novel, it follows Enitan as she grows up in postcolonial Nigeria and England. In the fraught, newly independent state, Enitan endures heartbreak, abuse, and rape, while trying to build a better future for herself. The novel also illuminates conflict within Nigeria, between its Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo ethnic groups, most of which stemmed from the Biafran War. Praised for its compelling and sympathetic portrayal of the postcolonial African country, the novel has won several major awards, including the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa.

At the beginning of the novel, Enitan is in her mid-teens. She has grown up entirely in Lagos, Nigeria, a country that forces women to internalize patriarchal norms in society and politics. Enitan has always been skeptical of the disproportionate power afforded to Nigerian men. She grows up in a broken household, torn between a strict, highly religious mother and a manipulative and avoidant father. At a young age, she loses her brother; the tragedy causes such trauma to her parents that they prohibit her from participating in most activities that her peers enjoy. Enitan’s confinement brings out a rebellious side. Her first act of rebellion is to leave home each Sunday to play with her neighbor, Sheri. Enitan learns that Sheri is considered  “yellow,” because her mother is a white Englishwoman and her father is Muslim. Sheri and Enitan share rebellious characteristics, though Sheri is particularly mischievous around boys. Besides sharing many interests, the two girls bond over the taboo nature of their relationship.

Enitan’s life suddenly changes when her parents send her to a school outside Lagos, hoping that she will receive a better education. Enitan’s father, a respected lawyer, hopes that she will one day graduate from law school and run his firm. Once Enitan leaves, she keeps in touch with Sheri by writing letters. They both envision that they will live near each other again one day. They reconnect one winter when Enitan returns to Lagos for the holidays. They decide to attend a party put on by some other teenagers in the area. At the party, Enitan grows anxious that something bad will happen as everyone drinks heavily. She walks out of the party and stumbles upon a brutal rape scene. Three men have restrained Sheri and take turns raping and verbally abusing her.

After witnessing Sheri’s rape, Enitan becomes less trustful of men. She also loses touch with Sheri. Sheri ends up trying to perform her own abortion and botches the procedure, necessitating a hospital visit. Several more years pass. Enitan goes back to Lagos to live with her father and work as his legal assistant. She starts a romantic relationship with Mike, a visual artist. One day, she encounters Sheri, and the two young women reconcile. Sheri relates that she is now the secret lover of a Muslim officer in the British army, who provides her with financial support. Sheri professes her belief that life is about playing any games that are necessary to ensure stability and prosperity. She rejects the notion that one must eventually settle with a husband, arguing that marriage strips women of individuality.

Enitan meets and quickly falls in love with Niyi Franco. Niyi is severely depressed because his ex-wife has left for Britain and taken his only child. Not long after stating their love for each other, Enitan and Niyi get married. Initially, Enitan relishes her married life, feeling very secure with Niyi. However, their relationship becomes strained when she repeatedly resists his orders. The two also struggle with fertility, becoming more certain, as time goes on, that they will not have a child. To her surprise, Enitan becomes pregnant. Despite the fortunate turn of events, she and Niyi drift even further apart over irreconcilable differences. Enitan also feuds with her father, who continues to pressure her to fit into the mold he has created in his mind. One day, she learns that her father has been arrested for speaking out against a Nigerian politician. His detainment compels her to become an activist herself. After one demonstration, she is thrown in jail overnight.

While still pregnant, Enitan connects with an all-women feminist organization that fights for sexual equality in Nigeria. Niyi scorns her for putting herself and their child at risk, pressuring her to stay home and become a domestic worker. Niyi’s lack of concern for Enitan’s beliefs and Enitan’s resistance to authority lead to a mutual split. At the end of the novel, Enitan remains politically active. She looks forward to fighting for women’s right to choose their futures for themselves and to develop identities that are not controlled by men.