Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo
Yejide and Akin have been married since they met and fell in love at university. Though many expected Akin to take several wives, he and Yejide have always agreed: polygamy is not for them. But four years into their marriage–after consulting fertility doctors and healers, trying strange teas and unlikely cures–Yejide is still not pregnant. She assumes she still has time–until her family arrives on her doorstep with a young woman they introduce as Akin’s second wife. Furious, shocked, and livid with jealousy, Yejide knows the only way to save her marriage is to get pregnant, which, finally, she does, but at a cost far greater than she could have dared to imagine.
My Review: 4.5 stars
Stay With Me deserves all the praise it’s getting and is deservedly on the shortlist for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize For Fiction. This book starts with a bang, right in the middle of Yejide and Akin’s life. We dive into the nontraditional love marriage this couple embarked on and see the raw pain that Yejide is feeling due to her inability to get pregnant. In a country where having children, most especially sons, is of major importance, she feels like a failure.
Enter Akin’s well-meaning yet intrusive family that brings with them the start of many twists and turns. Not often do books that aren’t in the mystery or thriller genre offer so many surprises. This is the author’s first novel and she has mastered the art of pacing with these plot wrenches. Although there is much despair and loads of untruths, there is also some light and humor that helps balance the sadness.
The story is told from the alternate point of views of Yejide and Akin. I can’t imagine it being told any other way. How each of these characters marinated on the same topic as they struggle with their issues was really eye opening. All the characters were uniquely drawn and realistically flawed.
Motherhood, being motherless, and the inability to be a mother are the main themes in this novel. The author’s nuggets of wisdom regarding mothering, marriage, family and love were plentiful. I must have highlighted and underlined half the book. These topics are sure to be a hit with book clubs.
I learned a lot about Nigeria and of course became curious about the Yoruba people. I can’t believe this is the author’s first novel. It’s a compact book that really packs a punch. I can’t wait to read more from her. Thanks to Netgalley and Knopf books for an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Quotes I liked:
Sometimes I think we have children because we want to leave behind someone who can explain who we were to the world when we are gone.”
-“If the burden is too much and stays too long, even love bends, cracks, comes close to breaking and sometimes does break. But when it’s in a thousand pieces around your feet, that doesn’t mean it’s no longer love.”
-“It’s the truth, stretched, but still true. Besides, what will be left of love without truth stretched beyond its limits, without those better versions of ourselves that we present as the only ones that exist?”