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A Spell of Good Things by Ayobami Adebayo
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A Spell of Good Things

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A Spell of Good Things by Ayobami Adebayo
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Feb 07, 2023 | ISBN 9780593664582 | 761 Minutes

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  • Feb 07, 2023 | ISBN 9780593664582

    761 Minutes

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BOOKER PRIZE NOMINEE GMA BUZZ PICK • A New York Times Editors’ Choice A SheReads Best Book Club Pick of The Year A MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK: Refinery 29, Financial Times, The Guardian, Oprah Daily, Electric Literature, Brittle Paper, and Write or Die Mag

“Adébáyò established her storytelling prowess in her 2017 debut, Stay With Me….In this compelling follow-up, Adébáyò’s hand is just as deft, but her canvas is more expansive….The graceful, stately quality of the sentences evokes restraint….Timely….Adébáyò humanizes those sucked into the vortex of that power with a striking compassion — the characters’ misjudgments and delusions are deeply and empathetically imagined, wholly alive….Readers around the world may want to turn their gazes from the poor on their neighborhood sidewalks, but the inescapable truth is that the inhabitants of any place remain bound to one another. Not just by space or circumstance, but by our shared vulnerability to the whims of socioeconomic forces, by the recognition that another human’s longings are not so different from our own.”      
—Aamina Ahmad, The New York Times

“Adebayo is a gifted storyteller, and like her debut novel, Stay with Me, her second book does not disappoint. The thin line between the poor and the wealthy is decimated when the lives of Eniola, an errand boy for a tailor, and Wuraola, a physician, collide. The violence of elections and the empty promises of politicians, the obscene wealth of the connected, the hunger and desperation of the have-nots all intersect in this examination of a community in Nigeria.”
Oprah Daily

“Eniola and Wuraola come from different classes in Nigeria, and in this dynamic sophomore novel from Adebayo, we see how socioeconomic stratification, exacerbated by gender inequality, can destroy lives at all levels. Never mind that these layers are all interdependent and innately connected —a paradox that leads here to a shocking, violent act from which there is no turning back.”
—Bethanne Patrick, Los Angeles Times

“As with her lauded debut Stay With Me, in Ayòbámi Adébáyò’s second novel domestic strife and the political tensions of modern Nigeria bristle against each other….As the protagonists’ stories are ineluctably drawn together, the compassion Adébáyò feels for her two protagonists is deep and her social consciousness commendable.”
Michael Donkor, The Guardian

“Adébáyọ̀ shines a light on modern Nigeria in this dynamic political novel, crafting a dazzling tale of wealth and love in the process.”
Chicago Review of Books

“A moving story, skillfully told, about Eniola, a boy whose future has been snatched away from him, and Wuraola, a talented, overworked junior doctor, whose intertwined narratives combine to produce an insightful portrait of an unequal and deeply divided society moving towards a terrible crisis. A Spell of Good Things is both gripping and memorable.”
—Pat Barker, award-winning author of The Silence of the Girls and The Women of Troy
“Adebayo’s mesmerizing prose is suffused with heart and sharp emotions. Every page of this book was a pleasure to read. Even the hard parts. A Spell of Good Things is a triumph of storytelling.”
—Chika Unigwe, author of On Black Sisters Street
“All characters matter in Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀’s intricate, haunting and timely fictional exploration of classism and sexism set in Nigeria’s election season.”
—Sefi Atta, author of Everything Good Will Come
“Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ is a natural storyteller, a spellbinder. Her expansive second novel is Dickensian in scope and execution. It sparkles.”
—Helon Habila, author of Travelers
“It is wonderful that Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ has delivered a novel that takes all the promise of her debut Stay With Me to another fabulous level. Her writing has a captivating power that becomes irresistible, detail by detail, page by page, making A Spell of Good Things a truly unforgettable read for me.”
—Margaret Busby, editor of New Daughters of Africa

“Adébáyọ̀ follows up Stay with Me with this bright and distinctive tragedy… The story’s violent denouement is as devastating as it is inevitable. Pitch-perfect details provide a sense of the characters’ lives—the red dust caked on Ẹniọlá’s white socks from long walks to school, the soft headscarf worn by Wúràọlá’s mother that ‘barely whispered’—and as the characters are pushed to the brink, Adébáyọ̀ delivers a searing indictment of the country’s corruption and gender inequalities. This packs a powerful punch.”
Publishers Weekly, starred

“This novel deftly explores class and violence in modern Nigeria. Adébáyọ̀’s characterization is empathetic, but also ruthless when it needs to be. Get ready to cry as you become immersed in a world full of political corruption, balanced with a bit of humor.”
—Erica Ezeifedi, Book Riot

“Adébáyọ̀…has a sprightly writing style that’s pleasurably at odds with the devastating story she tells. She captures the almost musical speech patterns of her characters and doesn’t trouble to translate snatches of Nigeria’s many languages. The novel’s cast is large, but each character is distinct….A Spell of Good Things is a wonderfully written, tragic book.”
Arlene McKanic, BookPage


Booker Prize LONGLIST 2023

Author Q&A

Was there a moment that prompted the concept for A Spell of Good Things? What was on your mind as you developed the story and the characters?
A Spell of Good Things began with a detour.  At some point in 2012 or 2013, I was on my way home from work and there was traffic on my usual route. The bus driver turned off the thoroughfare into a side street. Soon after, we burst into a neighborhood I’d never been in and found almost unrecognizable. This was in the town my family had lived in since I was eight. The town where I’d gone to secondary school and university. A place I thought I knew. Yet, there I was in a neighborhood more decrepit than I would have believed existed close to mine.  This experience informed the novel in several ways. It shaped how the story developed.

The idea of “a spell of good things” comes up a few times in the book. Where did this phrase come from?
I tried a few titles that had “good things” at the core. Sefi Atta’s Everything Good Will Come was very important to me as I wrote this book, so I wanted the title of this book to pay homage to that in some way. I was also thinking of what the characters aspire to, what they might consider a good life for themselves and how fragile many if not all aspirations can be.
As with your first novel, Stay with Me, this book is told primarily from more than one perspective. What draws you to the multi-perspective format? What does this offer the storytelling?
In all, there are nine perspectives in A Spell of Good Things. And though most of them appear for just a chapter, each is essential. As a reader, I find the multi-perspective format quite illuminating, particularly when I have the opportunity to see the same character or event refracted through multiple prisms.

When Wuraola gets engaged, she immediately sees the difference in how the people around her – her family, their friends – treat her. And her younger sister is constantly being reminded to prepare for her own future married life. Is this pressure and incentive to marry something you’ve encountered in real life?
After one of the events I did for Stay with Me in Lagos, a man walked up to me and asked if I was married. I told him I wasn’t. He then spent the next few minutes explaining how none of the things I’d accomplished really mattered until I was married. I found the whole exchange hilarious. Later on, I began to consider how pernicious that kind of perspective and pressure could be if it came from family or friends.

Eniola’s education seems to be his only hope to get out of poverty. How does his mother’s decision to prioritize his sister’s school fees affect Eniola and his path? What are the options for young people like Eniola?
The decision his mother makes is a critical turning point for Eniola, it makes him even more vulnerable than he was at the beginning of the book.  Another path is available to him in the tailor’s shop, but it isn’t the one he wants or has envisioned for himself. The way his society is set up leaves young people like him with very limited options, and that’s where we find him towards the end of the novel.

How did the experience of writing this book compare to writing Stay with Me?
It was challenging in a number of ways, and I enjoyed that. A Spell of Good Things is a more expansive book, with many characters and perspectives. Completing Stay with Me equipped me for this novel. I think I’ve grown as a writer from the experience of writing it and I hope it has prepared me for book that comes after this one.

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