This Nigerian debut is the heart-breaking tale of what wanting a child can do to a person, a marriage and a family; a powerful and vivid story of what it means to love not wisely but too well.
'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.
At times heartbreaking but always beautiful, this is an eye-opening account of a Nigerian woman's journey through barrenness. Family, heritage and legacy are central themes within this novel and with an economy of language that takes your breath away, Adebayo introduces us gently and without fuss into the innermost workings of Yejide and Akin's world.
There are varying chapters written from both Yejide and Akin's perspective and so we as readers feel the intimacy of every word. We have been chosen as confidantes and the sense that this is not really a narrative that we are outside of is beautifully created through Adebayo's unflinching and simple use of language. This isn't just a story. It is a confessional. It is the kind of conversation you have in the middle of the night when nothing is stirring and you can whisper your innermost thoughts to your closest friend without fear of judgement.
What I loved...
I can't describe how incredible and necessary this novel is. Yejide and Akin are a love affair that has all the right ingredients to make it work and as you watch their story unfold, like so many things in life, it is painful to see it come apart.
It also feels as if every character in this novel is vibrant and alive and this can only be a testament to Adebayo's skill as a writer. And although (as other reviewers have mentioned) the political and historical changes referenced in the book are overshadowed by the sheer force of Yejide's story, there is far too much meat to this novel to really detract from it and I can say without a doubt that it will leave a lasting impression.
Adebayo deals with an important aspect of relationships within very traditional and patriarchal societies and asks important questions such as: Where do you draw the line as a woman? What should you be willing to sacrifice for family; for your people, for love? What do you do when your power and right is taken away from you? At what point do you make a stand?
If you read anything in the next few months, this should be at the top of your list. It will break your heart a little, make you fall in love a little and leave you attempting to calibrate back into life again but it will be worth every bittersweet moment.
Devastating, powerful and every other word in-between, this story delves into an aspect of womanhood that is often ignored and I can only hope it goes a long way to contributing to a conversation that we should all be having. For the impact I feel it has and because it is beautifully written, I give this 5*.
Title: Stay With Me
Author: Ayobami Adebayo
Publisher: Canongate Books Publication
Date: 02 March 2017
Review Policy: I am happy to accept print copies and eBooks for review. Should you or your publisher wish to submit a copy of your book to be considered for review, please email: email@example.com with the 'Review Submission' as a subject heading.
Follow Rehema on social media at:
Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley and Canongate books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.