Book Reviews · Contemporary Fiction · Fiction

Stay With Me – Book Review

Goodreads blurb:32969150

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. An electrifying novel of enormous emotional power, Stay With Me asks how much we can sacrifice for the sake of family.

5-stars-together

I don’t even know where to start talking about this amazing work of literature. Going in, I knew the main story line was about a Nigerian couple, opposing the norm of polygamy and struggling through infertility. There is SO MUCH more to this twisted story than just that. I’ve never read anything like this-the African culture was shocking to me. I can’t wait to read more!

So love is like a test, but in what sense? To what end? Who was carrying out the test? But I think I did believe that love had immense power to unearth all that was good in us, refine us and reveal to us the better versions of ourselves.

-Ayobami Adebayo, Stay With Me

Once I started this book, I was captured and couldn’t stop reading, completely entranced with the Nigerian culture. I think sometimes, for me anyway, I forget how cultures differ in other countries outside of the US. Polygamy, for example, has always amazed me; the idea that multiple women can share the same man and not completely hate each other? Foreign to me. However, in 1980’s Nigeria, where Adebayo starts her story, it is actually considered unnatural to go against polygamy, only taking one wife. Our main characters Akin and Yejide have decided that they aren’t interested in the polygamist lifestyle, much to the dismay of their family. After 4 years of a loving marriage, many medical procedures and prayers later, Yejide is still not pregnant. Since all the testing has come back with normal results, Akin’s family tries to force another wife on him, trying to convince him that another wife will bear him children since Yejide has yet to prove herself as a worthy wife. Reluctantly, Akin takes a second wife-but he does it in the worst possible way and doesn’t tell Yejide beforehand. As you can imagine, Yejide does NOT take this well and the mayhem that follows makes for one hell of a ride. Adebayo goes between the mid 1980’s and 2008, but does so with grace, making the transition smooth and uncomplicated.

What would 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?

-Ayobami Adebayo, Stay With Me

The story alternates perspectives between Yejide and Akin, giving a glimpse into the secrets they keep from each other. Yejide is desperate to keep her husband to herself, knowing the only way to do so is to get pregnant before his second wife. The extraordinary measures Yejide goes to get pregnant are almost unbelievable. At times, I literally could not believe what I was reading. Hint: it involves goats and a mountain. Akin’s desire to have a child parallels his wife’s; his readiness to take desperate measures is just as radical. We also witness the confusion of our main characters as they struggle in their feelings for each other-they are clearly very much in love but also have so many other emotions involving their spouse. There is anger, sometimes hatred, loyalty-basically like any “normal” marriage (I know it’s not just me!) just not quite as theatrical.

“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.”

-Ayobami Adebayo, Stay With Me

While Stay With Me isn’t a long book, there is a remarkably complex story packed into 260 pages. There isn’t a lot of fluff surrounding the storyline, it is mostly straightforward facts and dialogue, which is just fine with me because while creating imagery is important, I get annoyed when an author spends 2 pages describing the color of the grass and the tilt of someone’s eyebrow. Since part of the book takes place in 80’s Nigeria, there is some political drama discussed, but it wasn’t overwhelming, mainly just attributing to the distressing atmosphere of the book.

Overall, this book definitely has a place in my top 10 of 2017. It is complex and interesting, completely unlike anything I have ever read. I would recommend it to everyone!

 

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Ayobami Adebayo 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 and has worked as an editor for Saraba magazine since 2009. 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 received fellowships and residencies from Ledig House, Sinthian Cultural Centre, Hedgebrook, Ox-bow School of Arts, Ebedi Hills and Siena Art Institute. She was born in Lagos, Nigeria. Read more about her on her website.

 

k, bye!

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2 thoughts on “Stay With Me – Book Review

    1. You should definitely read it. Unlike anything else I’ve read. I would say it has stayed with me but I’m not trying to be punny πŸ˜‰

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