Stay With Me is the debut novel by Nigerian author Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀. First published 2017 the book and author have since received critical acclaim as well as nominations for several literary awards including the Women’s Prize for Fiction.
What the Stay With Me is about
Stay With Me is the story about a young couple who meet and marry in university and the price it will cost To Stay together when after four years of marriage their union still remains childless. Set in a society where polygamy is the norm and a woman’s value is mostly for the children she will bear as blatantly expressed by the mother-in-law to her daughter-in-law.
“Women manufacture children and if you can’t you are just a man. Nobody should call you a woman.”Moomi
The book opens with a present day chapter and then what follows is whirlwind journey viewed through two characters Yejide(the wife) and Akin (the husband) Starting at the fateful day when Yejide has an unusual visit from the oldest of her father’s wives and her husband’s uncle. There have been several visits similar to this and Yejide has anticipated that the topic in hand will be to discuss their childlessness, she’s braced herself to make the appropriate responses even shed a few tears and look appropriately contrite she is ready for everything except for what happens next.
What I was not expecting was another smiling woman in the room, a yellow woman with a blood-red mouth who grinned like a new bride.Yijide
They had brought a second wife!
“We are not asking you to stand up from your place in his life, we are just saying you should shift so that someone else can sit down.”Moomi
Set in Nigeria between the 80s and the early 2000s the book offers a backdrop of social and political commentary to the everyday life, the coups and power struggles and how it filters down to society and the individual’s daily existence.
Stay With Me has twists that you may or may not see coming, sucker punches to your midsection that will have you winded for breath and just when you think you are over it, another one and yet another you are taken for a ride, literally and figuratively to the very end where you close the book and ask yourself what did I just read….
Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ explores traditions and culture, masculinity, patriarchy the trapped roles from which there seems no escape except in secrets, lies and manipulation.
Stay With Me is a portrait into marriage and how much one will sacrifice for the sake of their family, how much will it cost to Stay
“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.”
What I liked:
Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ is a great storyteller and book is easy enough to read. With a front seat observations from two of the characters you get to witness firsthand their delusions, yearnings and deepest fears and so better understand why they do the things they do.
What didn’t sit well with me:
One of the biggest premises on which the entire plot hinges upon is a bit of reach Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ takes the reader for a ride just as one of the characters takes another on an elaborate woven ride that soon we too almost miss the red flags and plot hole, at least until done reading then you are back to but honestly how naïve can one person get..
It was interesting reading about how tradition intersects with the modern world and the answers to some things science might have no answer such as why children are born with sickle cell anemia but tradition offers a different perspective. For example the case of the abiku, a child or spirit that torments a mother by returning and being born again only to die before reaching puberty
Abiku is Yoruba word that means “predestined to death“. It is from (abi) “that which was born” and (iku) “death“
You whip the Abiku’s body so that the next time child is reborn, the marks on the newborn would tell you that the dead child had returned to torment its mother. The parents were also not allowed to see where the child was buried (or thrown away) so that would not be able to come back and such children had names meant implore them to live such Maku – Don’t die, or Kukoyi – Death, reject this one
…they named her Rotimi, a name that implied that she was an Abiku child who had come into the world intending to die as soon as she could. Rotimi – stay with me.
It was a good read and yes I recommend it even if after I got to the ending I had no words to explain how I felt about reading the book. Read it so we can talk about it.
If you have read it am curious on your thoughts, or if you are going to add to your TBR do tell.