Book of the Month: Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo

I apologize for book of the month coming this late. As you all know, this month has been a whole lot. So anyway, let's do something fun, shall we?

This book is what you call an original. Written by a Nigerian, Ayobami Adebayo, Stay With Me tells the story of Yejide and Akin, who met in the University, as they navigate their marriage and all the pressures that come with a childless Nigerian marriage.  We hear about the marriage from each of their points of view. At some point, Akin is forced to take a second wife, Funmi, who is introduced to him by his mother. His mother insists this new wife will give him a child. This ordeal and its effects on Yejide sets the pace for a very heartbreaking book. We see the secrets husband and wife have kept from each other and the consequences this bears on their marriage. And that's about how much I want to say about the plot so as not to ruin it.

At first, the book sort of starts slow or not slow as much as keeping you wondering, where is this going? But trust me, it gets there soon enough. I really like this book because it's a Nigerian book written by a Nigerian and about Nigerians. The book has two narrators—husband and wife, Yejide and Akin—and  each chapter alternates between both of them. The striking aspect of this book is how it's so gentle yet so profound and strongly emotional. After watching interviews of the author, it almost feels like it mirrors the temperament of the author. The author does a good job of inviting us into the hearts and minds of the narrators, though I would argue in some sense, she was partial to Yejide.  More than anything, it flawlessly weaves the story of the couple against a backdrop of the Nigerian political environment. I will say though, that sometimes you are left wondering if the infusion of politics was doing too much.

There is a particular lie Akin told Yejide that I find really hard to believe. I mean, can anyone be so naive? And almost everyone that has read the book agrees with this notion. It's insignificant enough to ignore but also so center to the marriage and core of the book that it makes me wince a little. Otherwise, great book!

Something else that  immediately draws your attention is how she gleans from the Nigerian culture without been ostentatious. It's why I call her an original. I love how the book does not pander. It is genuine. It is authentic. It is not trying hard to be made into a movie. And yes, the author is a master storyteller. She used the characters' voices to tell folklores, something we rarely see in contemporary Nigerian novels. The representation of Yoruba people, customs, and tradition was heartwarming in a way I did not expect. For these reasons,  I am willing to overlook the aforementioned gaffe. Her portrayal of Yoruba people of different leanings, different beliefs, and thinking is just beautiful.  Among Yoruba people, a childless woman is basically an aberration, an outcast. There is a pain, a heartache, and a desperation that comes with being childless in Nigeria in that era and Adebayo captures it quite well. And yet somehow, she manages to explore themes of religion, outdated but familiar traditions, love. The author's wisdom seeps through the pages in a way that isn't showy.

There is a lot in the book about Nigeria in early 90s/80s: a time when armed robbers wrote you before visiting. When mothers-in-law can arrive with a second wife for your husband. Depending on who you are or your age, it might make you nostalgic.

"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.

This quote whew. It bothers me; the idea of love as tragic, painful, and endlessly so bothers me a lot. I genuinely believe love ends. And I also believe a love that destroys you is anything but.

Ultimately, this book is not really what you will expect at all. There are surprising plot twists along the way that make it all the more a dope book. And it is very poignant. And you would not want to put it down. And I know, for sure, you need a good distraction right about now Lol.



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