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by Sefi Atta
Reviewed by Charlotte Simpson

Sefi Atta's debut novel is a coming-of-age story set in 1970s Nigeria that tells the story of Enitan Taiwo, a middle‒class girl with a father she adores and an extremely religious mother she hates. Naive and young for her years, Enitan develops a friendship with Sheri, the girl next door, who stays out dancing all night and doesn't have family rules and regulations to adhere to. One night Sheri's mystique and Enitan's innocence of adult matters are shattered. Life will never be the same again for either of them.

Through Enitan's journey into adolescence and womanhood and her re‒acquaintance with Sheri in later years, Atta probes the role of women in Nigerian society. While it is Sheri who was subjected to a horrific and humiliating ordeal, it is Enitan who never quite recovers from this event.

Sheri accepts the parameters and restrictions on her life and makes the most of what opportunities she can; Enitan slowly comes to a realisation of her strength and identity as a woman, only years later leaving behind that young girl who has felt helpless and frightened since that night. She also arrives at a greater understanding of her mother and her father that helps her see herself more clearly.

Part of this personal awakening is a growing political awareness and questioning of the patriarchal system and leadership. Whereas she was once happy to ignore what was happening around her, Enitan now begins to question the role of the middle class in post-colonial Nigeria ('The general help we called house boys and house girls...if they had friends over, we worried that they might steal') and the mis-representation of Africa to the rest of the world.

I think this second point is fascinating. Enitan explains how her home is viewed by outsiders: 'A noble people. A savage culture. Pop concert after pop concert for starving Africans. Entire books dedicated to the salvation of African women's genitals'. These one‒dimensional images of Africa seem to be a common concern among contemporary writers. In her talk at this year's Ted conference (an annual event that brings together the 'world's most fascinating thinkers and doers') Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie warned about the danger of a 'single story' for Africa—the story of war, corruption, poverty, death—that we outside the continent often accept as true.

Everything Good Will Come is a strong, thought‒provoking first novel that provides the reader with the hope not only that Enitan is moving towards a more content and fulfilling life, but also that there are writers and publishers who want to provide a multiplicity of stories that illuminate Africa for the rest of us.