Stay With Me- Ayobami Adebayo; Book Review #17

Stay with me- Ayobami Adebayo

Title- Stay with me

Author- Ayobami Adebayo

Publisher- Knopf Publishing Group

Format- Paperback; ISBN 9789966190208

Themes- Religion, Culture, Betrayal

Completion time- 4 bus rides

Stay with me

I picked this book up during the 21st Nairobi International Book Fair in September. I had loved it since I first heard of it and I love it more now that I have read it. All the hype is really well warranted. Stay with me is one of those books you will wish never end; that they stay with you all the way. I read it on the bus rides from work till it got dark. Then I got home and read it before sleep. I even snuck in a few pages during lunch break.

Set in Nigeria around the 1990’s and early 2000’s, Stay With Me follows the story of Yejide over several years. It begins with her marriage to Akin and mentions their problems. It follows the familiar path of African in-laws meddling in your marriage, prodding at each and every tiny reason to explain the troubles you have. Yejide, being the dutiful African wife does all that is expected of her and more.

She is the perfect wife, the submissive in-law, she takes care of her home, visits her Moomi (Akin’s mother). During this particular visit at their home in Ilesa that is the final straw, Yejide offers to prepare pounded yam for her family. All this hospitality despite the fact that Iya Martha, the woman who was supposed to be her mother after her biological one passed during childbirth has only ever destroyed her life.

During this particular visit, Yejide learns that she is to have a co-wife, another possession they say, a blessing. After years of putting up with jabs, snide remarks, myriads of explanations followed by a string of specialists, prayers, fasting… whatever uncurses her marriage. As much as this was expected eventually, it is the fact that Akin, her beloved husband, endorsed this second union. Such a betrayal is only just the beginning of them all.

I bought new mugs… Where are the old ones? … I broke them Click To Tweet

And that was the beginning of the end. Yejide smashed the hibiscus-red mugs one by one. She then swept them in a dustpan and then pounded them like the yam she refused to cook for her in-laws. But that was just the first straw. Akin pulled away from the marriage and she slowly began to look for peace and solace elsewhere. So when she loses her most beloved treasure to sickle-cell disease, and another to the same monster she withdraws from life.

Before you call a snail a weakling, tie your house to your back and carry it around for a week. Click To Tweet

Stay with me

In fact, Yejide has had enough of this marriage, the lies, the betrayal, the lack of communication, lost dreams and hopes. She cannot leave like this. So when one of her regulars invites her for a wedding she packs a bag and never comes back. Yejide leaves Rotimi that literally means stay with me in the care of her father.

As she leaves for Jos to start a hair salon, she leaves behind her a broken marriage, brothers who won’t talk, a sick daughter, a disintegrating nation. But it’s the way she casually leaves that has you crying for me, has you begging, stay with me.

PS- what is it with women and salons? Remember the Hairdresser of Harare?

It’s how she vows to take Akin’s secret to the grave even though it’s why she eventually left. The way she shoulders all the blame, kneeling, pounding yam, consulting with Moomi, being perfect… It’s all in the way she took Akin’s love in totality, never questioning his love for her, or his lies, or the way he sold her. Yejide’s actions prayed every day that Akin would love her, notice her Stay with me non-verbal cues.

Alternative cover page- Ayobami Adebayo’s Stay with me

Ayobami Adebayo

Ayobami Adebayo tells the story of Yejide’s coming back beginning at the now, flashbacking to her marriage and beyond, to her days in college. She tells of her growing up without a mother, and the phenomenal woman she became. Stay with me is a beautiful, sad story that will have you questioning everything from sex only after marriage, the sanctity of marriage, the African traditions, and the secrets you should let destroy you

Ayobami Adebayo was born in 1988. She is young, pretty and poetic. She got her MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Her short fiction has been featured in magazines time and time again. She also edits the fiction section of the Saraba magazine. However, Stay With Me is Ayobami’s first novel. Reminds me of the waves Chimamanda made with her debut novel.

Stay with me is one of the top novels of 2018. It has been shortlisted for the 2013 Kwani? manuscript. It was also a New York’s book review pick and the 2017 Bailey’s women prize for fiction. Stay with me has scaled quite the heights with Margaret Atwood- acclaimed author of the book Handmaids tale that turned movie- describing it as gripping, scorching, and ultimately lovely. Rotimi Babatunde, winner of the 2012 Caine Prize of African Writing also speaks highly of Stay with me.

One Last Thing

If nothing else, I hope this book gives you something to believe in, be it marriage, love, happiness, family. I hope it shows you that some things are worth fighting for and that you will always have the perseverance to go through it. But then I hope that when you finally cannot take it anymore that you will learn to leave. Pack a bag and go relearn yourself. Good things tend to happen when you take time to yourself.

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