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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

A Spell of Good Things

1. Revisit the epigraphs that mark the novel’s four parts. How do they amplify the themes of the story and set the tone for each section? Consider exploring the works of T. M. Aluko, Chika Unigwe, Helon Habila and Teju Cole. How do they speak in conversation with Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀’s novel? Why do you think she selected them as structural elements of the text?

2. Adébáyọ̀ investigates topics such as class, education, family, gender, marriage and domestic violence in her fiction, and this novel touches on them all with complexity and nuance. What is one passage that stuck with you in particular, and why?

3. A SPELL OF GOOD THINGS tells the tale of two families whose lives become intertwined without relying on extended physical encounters between them. Revisit the moments when their paths do cross. How would you describe the exchanges? Why do you think Adébáyọ̀ chose to keep them brief yet impactful? What do these encounters reveal about the relationship between political elites and the working class in modern Nigeria?

4. Despite their different socioeconomic backgrounds, Ẹniọlá and Wúràọlá’s families both instilled in their children a high regard for education. Why do you think education was an important asset in this society? Do you think its emphasis harmed or hindered the different characters and relationships in the story?

5. Ẹniọlá’s mother is faced with the difficult decision to further the education of one of her children and not the other. What factors influenced her decision? Do you think she made the right choice?

6. Who is Aunty Caro? What is the significance of her connection to Ẹniọlá and Wúràọlá’s families? Why do you think Adébáyọ̀ chose to open and close the novel with her?

7. How would you characterize Yèyé’s 50th birthday party? Joyful and celebratory? Tense? What was your reaction to the party’s ending?

8. On page 163, Wúràọlá describes the feeling of being engaged to that of being a celebrity: beloved and valued. What do the reactions to Wúràọlá’s engagement reveal about the importance of marriage in this society? How do love, cultural customs and social class shape partnerships? Do all of the novel’s characters share the same views on marriage?

9. In the novel, Mọ́tárá repeatedly calls her sister “Saint Wúràọlá the Impeccable” (page 226). What are the expectations placed on Wúràọlá and Mọ́tárá as the young women of their family? How do they respond to these pressures? What do their reactions reveal about their own values?

10. A SPELL OF GOOD THINGS touches on the circumstances that keep women in both abusive and unsatisfying relationships in great depth. What forces keep Wúràọlá from coming forward with her experience of Kúnlé’s abuse? How would you characterize the reactions of her sister, Mọ́tárá, and the assumed reactions of her friends? Were they beneficial, or did they fail to fully comprehend the difficulty of her situation? How do the factors keeping Wúràọlá in her relationship compare to the reasoning provided by Yèyé and Ìyá Ẹniọlá for staying in their unhappy marriages? Are there any examples of admirable partnerships in the text?

11. The novel also sheds light on the experiences of men trying to live up to patriarchal standards of masculinity in a world where women are finding empowerment through greater levels of education and financial independence. What differences did you notice between the generation of the novel’s parents and their children related to gender roles and the place of women in society? How do the male characters --- including Ẹniọlá and his father, Láyí, and Kúnlé --- react to this shift?

12. Describe Kingsley. Why do you think he becomes a significant figure in Wúràọlá’s life as she reaches the turning point in her relationship with Kúnlé?

13. Central to the novel are the language, traditions and values of the Yoruba people in Nigeria. What did this add to the story and your experience of reading it? Why do you think it was important for Adébáyọ̀ to tell the story in this way?

14. Adébáyọ̀ writes that Yèyé “had never been able to shake the sense that life was war, a series of battles with the occasional spell of good things” (page 157). Reflect on the novel’s title. How does each character cope with this feeling of instability?

A Spell of Good Things
by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀

  • Publication Date: February 6, 2024
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage
  • ISBN-10: 1984898884
  • ISBN-13: 9781984898883