Sefi Atta was born in Nigeria, and spent her early years in the country before moving to England, and later to the US. Everything Good Will Come, her debut novel, was awarded the inaugural Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa in 2006.
Set in the city of Lagos, Nigeria, Everything Good Will Come is a story about Enitan, the only child of a lawyer father and a fanatic mother who turns to religion as a means of escape instead of dealing with her marital problems. Enitan is a spoilt child who has lived a sheltered life, and is only exposed to another perspective of the world because of her friendship with Sheri. Sheri, on the other hand, is a vivacious and quite daring girl from a polygamous home. She is also the first-born in her family, and therefore has quite a big shoe to fill when her father dies and she has to work with her stepmothers in order to keep the family together.
When Enitan’s parents eventually divorce, this puts a strain on her relationship with her mother because she loves her father more, and her mother is always trying to put her in-between their quarrels.
Enitan leaves home to attend university out of the country, and on coming back to Nigeria, she is already assured of a job in her father’s firm. In this vein Enitan, is portrayed as a girl that never really has to bother her head about many things. While Sheri is trying to make ends meet by allowing herself to be a kept woman, Enitan is living the charmed life.
She is a strong willed woman who thinks that men are domineering, self centered, overbearing and expect women to be submissive, attentive and perform all what they are asked to do, regardless of their feelings. She is angry that society expects the same of her. This puts a big strain on her marriage because she refuses to be subjected the role of the quiet, submissive wife who wouldn’t dare argue with her husband’s decisions.
On one occasion when her father is arrested for daring to speak against the government, and people came to sympathize with her, she is totally aghast when her mother in law expects her to still entertain the guests because according to her she is the one in grief, and cannot, therefore, be expected to entertain.
The two daring decisions she makes in this book that at least showed her in a different light from the spoilt brat that she really is, are, first, when she decides to join forces with other women in speaking out against the government even while pregnant, and against her husbands wishes. The second incident is when she eventually leaves her husband just after giving birth, again because her husband tries to forbid her from doing what she wants to do.
Sefi Atta’s Everything Good Will Come, portrays women as having a choice in whether they want to become the submissive wives and mothers that our mother’s taught us to be or whether they wants to be the modern contemporary women who would do whatever it takes to pursue their dreams – even when their marriages may have to suffer as a result.
As much as I love this boldness and daring attitude, I’ll also say that the picture Atta paints can only exist in books, at least as far as African women are concerned.