Stay With Me
by Ayobami Adebayo
Publisher: Canongate Books
Release Date: March 2017
Length: 8 hrs 5 mins
Find It: Audible
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. 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.
“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 . . .”
Stay With Me tells the story of Yejide and Akin. A couple who after 4 years of marriage have failed to have kids. The pressure is on from their families but their love is strong and they are able to support each other in the face of adversity. When I say each other though, I mean Yejide, as she is assumed to be responsible for producing children. She is subjected to all kinds of prayers and fasting with no results.
“A good mother’s life is hard”, she said. “A woman can be a bad wife but she must not be a bad mother,” Moomi told me that before asking God to give me a child, I must ask for the grace to be able to suffer for that child.
The battle lines are drawn when Yejide is ambushed with the new wife, Funmi, that has been forced on Akin. This first scene quickly gives us a picture of the kind of person Yejide is: Independent, smart, sharp-witted, not afraid of confrontation, definitely ahead of her time. Yejide feels the sting of the betrayal, not only by Akin but also by Akin’s mother who she had taken as a substitute for her own dead mother. The pressure is more than Yejide can bear and after a visit to a “miracle worker”, she convinces her body it’s pregnant (Pseudocyesis). For a year, she refuses to listen to the doctors who tell her there is no baby and this puts, even more, strain on her marriage.
Seeing Yejide slowly lose her mind is disturbing and painful to watch. After a difficult childhood, where her stepmothers’ turned neglect and ridicule to a sport, Yejide is desperate for familial security. After the introduction of Funmi into her marriage, she realises the only way to truly have that is to create her own family.
Akin is not a good husband and I disliked him from our first introduction to him. This is not to say Yejide is a model wife. The fact is these characters are inherently flawed like humans tend to be. They lie, cheat, keep secrets, make questionable decisions and hurt the people they love. No one is innocent, and while they truly love each other a little honesty would have saved them a world of heartache.
Stay With Me is beautifully written, the supporting cast is colourful and provides much needed comedic relief without being ridiculous. The story is set in’80’s Nigeria, this provides an interesting backdrop without having much impact on the story. Another thing or the main thing I love about this book is the unapologetic Yoruba nature of the writing. The speech, nuances, quick-witted dialogue; Ï mean, listening to it even narrated in a British accent was a treat. And I can’t wait to read it.
This book was narrated by Adjoa Andoh. I am not familiar with her and I’m too lazy to find out right now. She is a master storyteller though. Since I finished this book, I have learnt that Ayobami Adebayo actually uses Moomi as the traditional word for mother. This is different from my own people’s Maami and I know this is nitpicking but every time I hear Moomi, I cringe. Every time!
I also wish the narrator hadn’t tried to mimic an African accent at all. It definitely wasn’t Nigerian. Not to mention Yoruba. The listening experience would have been much better if she had stuck with one accent. Every time she switched it up I felt like punching something.
I love everything about this story. The prose, the characters, the cultural representation. Thank you!!!