Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀’s “A Spell of Good Things” Explores the Dichotomy Between Poverty and Wealth

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Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ isn’t one to shy away from hard topics. Her work is known for exploring the intricacies of sensitive topics that affect the average Nigerian society. In her 2017 novel, Stay With Me, Adébáyọ̀ explored themes like infertility, sickle-cell anaemia, and the cultural concept of abiku. By creating a deeply intriguing storyline, the book addressed complex themes and was also full of lessons. It’s no surprise that her latest work tows a similar path, tackling important social issues. A Spell of Good Things delves into the contrast between poverty and wealth, drawing comparisons between these parallels in reality.


Also set  in Ilesa, Osun State, the book juxtaposes the socio-cultural dynamics of wealth and poverty in Western Nigeria. It exposes the dynamics that education, class, social strata, and the role of s in life’s interactions.


The book opens by introducing the character Caro, who plays the role of a bridge between the two main protagonists, Ẹniọlá and Wúràọlá. Ẹniọlá, a 16-year-old apprentice at Caro’s tailoring shop, finds his life altered by recent events, the most important one being  his father’s job loss. As the story progresses, it becomes easier to forget  Ẹniọlá’s age due to the weight of poverty borne heavily by his premature shoulders.

On the other hand, Dr. Wúràọlá, a 28-year-old medical doctor, experiences a series of defining events and is caught between societal expectations, duty, and her own safety. These two characters, in different worlds, eventually intertwine in a series of life-changing moments.


Life was war, a series of battles with the occasional spell of good things.

Yèyé Makinwa


In Adébáyọ̀’s  narrative, Yèyé Mákinwá understood serendipity. She thought of life as a plethora of unpredictable events, a realisation that stemmed  from her understanding of affluence and modesty. Growing up in a middle-class environment,she recognised that it was easier to descend from the middle-class than to ascend to the upper class. This influenced her belief in how delicate the financial stability of the middle class is, acknowledging that a single crisis could  drop back to square one. 

 Yèyé’s perception of this dynamic helped her devise a plan to stack gold as a gift for Wúràọlá and a backup for unforeseen rainy days.


Adébáyọ̀ illustrates the parallel between the financial outlook of Ẹniọlá’s father—a history teacher with conventional middle-class dreams—and Yèyé Mákinwá’s viewpoint—an opulent, wealthy woman who thinks of money long-term.

In contrast to  Ẹniọlá’s father, who during his glory days cared mostly about providing the necessities, which is very common among the Nigerian middle class, Yèyé Mákinwá thought of money with more foresight rather than focusing on immediate needs.


She explores the concept of financial safety nets here as a luxury that many middle-class Nigerians can only hope for and that the lower class can’t even dream of. The Mákinwás’ wealth  provided enough means to cater to their basic needs, create a fortune for their kids, and afford Yèyé the capacity to deploy her own emergency financial plan.


Yèyé lived long enough to realise that Aunty Bíọ́lá had always been right: real wealth was inter-generational, and the way Nigeria was set up, your parentage would often matter more than your qualifications.


In several  aspects, Adébáyọ̀ crafted Yèyé’s character with deep insight, especially when juxtaposing the opportunities and options available to the rich and poor. Ẹniọlá’s father struggled to keep his family afloat after losing his job as a history teacher in a secondary school, even though the book described him as a very intelligent man. In contrast, Kúnlé who failed the required subjects to study medicine, was able to pivot into a different path, becoming a newscaster. Although the book hinted at his average academic abilities, he didn’t need to excel to get a shot at life.

Ẹniọlá’s awareness of his family’s social position and the significance of education in changing that made him tenacious in his pursuit. Unlike Kúnlé whose family’s wealth compensates for his academic shortcomings, his only option was academic excellence.



The portrayal of Honourable Fẹ̀sọ̀jaiyé’s character in the book mirrored the malevolent ruling class, who exploits underprivileged young people as pawns to play their political game in exchange for crumbs. Although Ẹniọlá’s involvement with him might appear as a case of moral compromise, Adébáyọ̀ subtly reminds us that morality is not a luxury the poor can afford. For them, survival matters more than virtue.


Adébáyọ̀’s  storytelling in the novel consistently humanises  her characters and explores them in depth, revealing the contrast in their financial backgrounds and its impact on their lives. By exploring this, she captures the intersections between the privileged and the underprivileged and the role  fate plays in this. Through this narrative, her words compel her readers to confront the implications of power dynamics and its consequences on one’s choices.