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‘There are things even love can’t do… If the burden is too much and stays too long, even love bends, cracks, comes close to breaking and sometimes does break. But even when it’s in a thousand pieces around your feet, that doesn’t mean it’s no longer love…’
Yejide is hoping for a miracle, for a child. It is all her husband wants, all her mother-in-law wants, and she has tried everything – arduous pilgrimages, medical consultations, dances with prophets, appeals to God. But when her in-laws insist upon a new wife, it is too much for Yejide to bear. It will lead to jealousy, betrayal and despair.
Unravelling against the social and political turbulence of 80s Nigeria, Stay With Me sings with the voices, colours, joys and fears of its surroundings. Ayobami Adebayo weaves a devastating story of the fragility of married love, the undoing of family, the wretchedness of grief, and the all-consuming bonds of motherhood. It is a tale about our desperate attempts to save ourselves and those we love from heartbreak.
I can’t explain how excited I was when I found this book on NetGalley. It was my first African Lit from the site. Stay with me by Ayobami Adebayo centers around a married couple, Yejide and Akin. The two have been married for three years and are childless.Yejide is already feeling the pressure of being childless in a society where women are recognized for their ability to be mothers. Family, friends and even strangers start pushing her and she ends up making numerous trips to the hospital looking for medical solutions. When science fails, she starts seeking unorthodox interventions such as visiting spiritual leaders and witch doctors.
I think that the portrayal of Yejide’s struggles and how society kept pressuring her was so accurate. It is something that happens a lot in our society. I don’t know if that happens in other parts of the world. I empathized with Yejide. Culture plays a key part in the story. I can’t say much about this but I liked how this was portrayed through speech, dressing, and customs. I love reading about other people’s cultures.
The book is set in Nigeria at a time of political unrests leading to student’s protests and an attempted coup. This reminded me of Chimamanda’s Half of a Yellow Sun which is also set in a similar period. However, the state of the nation does not have much impact on the characters apart from a few critical times when they get caught up in the mayhem. I still felt like the author did a great job with the setting. Even if the unrests were not a key part of the story, they were still evident.
The story is told by the two main characters, Akin and Yejide which enables readers to see how the two are dealing with the issue. It also helped in the character development because we get to know the two better through their narrations. Another aspect of the narration that I enjoyed was the use of two timelines. We get to know about Yejide and Akin three years after marriage. However, there are chapters that take us back to when they made in University and their courtship.
Stay with me by Adebayo Ayobami is a well-written story about a woman’s struggle with childlessness, societal pressures and loss. It is through this book that I learned about pseudocyesis which is shocking and heartbreaking at the same time. There are a number of twists and secrets that made it difficult to predict the ending. The beautifully articulated prose, setting, female protagonist and the themes all made this a wonderful read.
This book reminded me so much of The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin. I recommend this book to all fans of African Literature and everyone looking for diversity in literature.
About Ayobami Adebayo
Ayobami Adebayo’s stories have appeared in a number of magazines and anthologies, and one was highly commended in the 2009 Commonwealth short story competition. She holds BA and MA degrees in Literature in English from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife. She also has an MA in creative writing from the University of East Anglia where she was awarded an international bursary for Creative Writing. Ayobami has been the recipient of fellowships and residencies from Ledig House, Hedgebrook, Threads, Ebedi Hills and Ox-Bow.
STAY WITH ME- UK (Canongate, March 2017) US (Knopf, August 2017) is her debut novel.