Review: Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo

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About the Author:

Ayobami Adebayo’s 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. She also has an MA in creative writing from the University of East Anglia where she was awarded an international bursary for Creative Writing.   Stay With Me is her debut novel. Follow Ayobami on Twitter: ayobamiadebayo 

About the Book:

(Publisher description) 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.  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.

304 pages, publication date 2nd March 2017

My rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

My review:

I received an advance review copy courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher, Canongate Books, in return for an honest review.

Yejide is smart, sassy, well-educated and runs her own business but she doesn’t have the one thing she desires and her family expect – a child.  The pressure to conform to the demands of her family and culture becomes unbearable for Yejide, creating strains in her marriage to Akin.  Akin is similarly pressurised by the expectations of his family, especially his mother.  This pressure results in actions that will have unintended and dramatic  consequences for Yejide and Akin, and for those around them.  Told from the points of view of both Yejide and Akin and shifting between different time periods (which are sometimes difficult to keep track of), this is an assured debut novel that keeps the reader guessing.  The author deftly inserts several emotional bombshells at various points that change the tone and direction of the entire narrative.  However, there is also humour in the cast of supporting characters.  There are fascinating insights into Nigerian/Yoruba culture such as the rituals of greeting, significance of naming and the importance of hierarchy within families (particularly in polygamous families).  The story plays out against the backdrop of  political events in Nigeria but this is very much secondary to the novel (unlike, say, in Half of a Yellow Sun).  The novel is an intimate family drama, similar to The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives (which is also highly recommended).

In three words: Moving, dramatic, family

 

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