Monday, 19 June 2017

Review: Stay With Me by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀

Title: Stay With Me
Author: Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀
Publisher:  Canongate
Pages: 298
Genres: Historical Fiction

‘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, appeals to God. But when her relatives 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 1980s Nigeria, Stay With Me sings with the voices, colours, joys and fears of its surroundings. Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ 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.
I really loved this book and it reminded me of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah, a book I also adored. Stay With Me examines Nigerian culture, specifically the expectations of women within marriage and society in general. It was just so fascinating. It is essentially about the marriage of Akin and Yejide, who are living in Nigeria and are under immense pressure from their family to have children. At the very beginning of the book, Yejide discovers that Akin has bowed under his mother's pressure and has taken a second wife behind her back. The novel goes from there and follows a time period of around the mid eighties all the way to 2008.

Firstly, Adébayò's writing style is rich with description and I really loved all of the little details from the food, the traditions, the politics of the time, to the local superstitions. It is very atmospheric, and I felt like I was there experiencing the hardships alongside the characters. The story is mainly told from Yejide's perspective with a few chapters sprinkled throughout from Akin's perspective. I really liked Yejide, and it really was hard to see her go through what she ultimately did.

What I was not expecting was how twisty this novel is, I mean there were some jaw dropping moments. I guessed some of the early ones but the twists near the end shocked me. Stay With Me is quite fast paced and the perfect balance of character development and plot. I read this book in two sittings, it was truly unputdownable.

I really enjoyed reading about Akin and Yejide's journey together and I would highly recommend this book, especially if you are a fan of Nigerian literature and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Stay With Me has a very similar style while still being completely unique. I thoroughly enjoyed every second reading this book and will be thinking of Yejide and Akin for a long time.

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