Heartbreaking, soul shaking story of young Nigerian couple battling with a deep love, childlessness and lies – Good Lord, the lies!
Stay With Me tells of the lengths Akin and Yejide go to ‘cure’ their childlessness. The stories they tell themselves and each other, the unsolicited interjections from insistent mothers and rival hairdressers. You genuinely hope well for the pair for because they are in love despite it all….but following the treks up mountains, the breast-feeding of white goats (yes you read that right), and collusion with philandering brothers, you begin to wonder. Be prepared for polygamy and plot twists worthy of Nollywood: what begins as a tragic but hopeful story of a young couple slowly descends into madness.
It is highly likely that you will become emotionally invested
By page twelve, I was seething on Yejide’s behalf. I had no intention of getting a third of the way through the book at bedtime but the term ‘unputdownable’ was coined for stories like this. Be prepared to swear at inanimate pages.
Adebami cleverly jumps back and forth in time between the 80s and 2008, making you try to guess the events leading to the present. You will be wrong most times. As in life, interactions between loved ones are almost completely unpredictable.
The story telling is exceptional
With vibrant characters who could likely bring a theatre stage to life as well as a silver screen. It’s hard to believe it’s a debut. Adebayo narrates the husband and wife’s perspectives in first person, using separate chapters for each. What this should do is give a balanced view of both husband and wife; however, it can be difficult to overlook Akin’s indiscretions. It’s fascinating that his behaviour appears erratic, even as he was narrating in first person. Even as the reader had a direct insight into his head and should be persuaded to empathise.
As well as fertility and marriage, there is a heavy theme of obligation throughout. Yejide’s obligation to her husband and in laws. Akin’s obligation to his mother, family and hey- even his wife. Brother’s obligations to each other. Pressures to fulfill these obligations and failure to fit traditional societal norms drive a lot of the narrative. Impressively, Adebayo brings the dilemmas of sickle cell anemia to light in the story- something she has been personally affected by, having friends who died young as a result (also being a carrier herself). It’s a subject which is barely even glossed over in Nigeria, a country with a fairly high occurrence.
Be prepared to swear at inanimate pages
A backdrop of political unrest makes the story believable, a commonality Stay With Me has with Half Of A Yellow Sun,although the similarities do stop there. While the politics do provide some credibility, they could just have easily been dropped with little impact to the narrative due to the strength of the story.
The consistent rhythm of the prose flows so well that the inclination is to read it uninterrupted. I read it in two sittings over a weekend. Akin and Yejide’s descent rushed around me before I realised Sunday was over.
Stay with me was shortlisted for 2017 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. It was also selected as one of the best books of the year by The Economist and The Guardian