Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo – Book Review

Title: Stay With Me

Author: Ayobami Adebayo

Genre/Themes: Historical Fiction, Drama, 1980s Nigeria, Yoruba, Love, Marriage, Motherhood, Fertility, Loyalties, Grief, Cultural and Societal Influences/Expectations,

Long listed for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2017.

Blurb from Goodreads

‘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, 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.

My Review

Stay With Me told the story of the marriage between Yejide and Akin, a young couple in Ilesa, Nigeria during the 1980s. It painted a searingly honest portrait of love and loyalties and the insidiousness of expectations and grief.

Yejide was a woman looking for that sense of belonging. For security. For someone to stand beside her, to choose her. Her mother died in childbirth and she was looked down upon by her father’s other wives and never truly had that sense of home.

Akin was a first born son. The familial expectations placed upon him by virtue of his birth meant that he always struggled to keep his head above water. To prove his worth.

But Yejide and Akin found each other and they knew that they had found that person, that one. They found that happy ever after…

Or did they?

So many stories end with the happy ever after, this one started out from there. The book was an exploration of love and how it could be influenced by in-laws, by culture, by pride and by shame, by trust, mistrust and by above all, absolute grief.

And for me, it was an absolutely gut wrenching read. From the opening salvo of the first few pages battle lines were drawn and I thought I knew who the villains of the piece were going to be. But I was utterly wrong.

I hated Akin to start with. Absolute hatred for him. But then, and this is what I love the most in books, things started to get complicated. Messy. Circumstances weren’t black and white. Grey was everywhere. Yejide wasn’t as initially likeable as I thought. I saw that she too was fallible. There was no right or wrong. There were just people. Perfectly imperfect people.

These characters were so beautifully drawn that they were capable of eliciting incredible emotion from me as the reader. I loved and I hated. I felt both apathy and empathy. The author was completely unafraid to make her characters hopelessly flawed and therefore all the more human. This book made me feel something on every page.

The story also brought to the fore many Nigerian cultural aspects featuring the Yoruba people. I was fascinated to learn of these traditions and beliefs and it grounded the book in a world that felt very true yet also very otherworldly to someone as I am who has limited knowledge of such things.

As this is Ayobami Adebayo’s first full length novel she has undoubtedly been compared to her fellow Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in the media. Adichie is indeed a tough act to step out from under the shade of; I for one am a huge fan of all of Adichie’s work having read all her novels and as many short stories as I can get my hands on. I think Ayobami Adebayo very much has her own individual voice. Like Adichie, Adebayo writes incredibly human characters but in an entirely different and unique way. I believe this will stand to her in the future and am convinced that she will soon be as recognisable a name as Adichie.

I utterly loved this book. It was a glorious study of human relationships and the trials of trying to create a home in this harsh world.

Highly recommended.

A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher, Canongate Books, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Published: March 2017

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16 thoughts on “Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo – Book Review

  1. I absolutely love authors that aren’t shy to make their characters HUMAN. Imperfect, fallible and not always the good guy. This story sounds deeply emotional and all too real. I was speaking to Nen yesterday about there not being enough African influence in books (it’s my ancestry so I’m always excited to read about it!). This book genuinely sounds like an emotionally wild ride. I’m glad you enjoyed it Emer 🙂 Jen

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And this book is a perfect example of truly authentic characters. It was so interesting to read about the dynamics of an intimate relationship where there was wrong on both sides and right on both sides. So 100% this is a book I recommend if you’re up for reading a character study. And I agree with you, there needs to be more African literature in the mainstream. It was so interesting reading about the Nigerian culture in this book; I have read a number of authors with Igbo heritage so it was nice to get insights into the Yoruba people from this book. :))))

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You always word things so beautifully in your reviews! This sounds like a very enlightening read. I love the colors on the cover too!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “It was a glorious study of human relationships and the trials of trying to create a home in this harsh world.” 😍😍😍 I LOOOVEE YOUR REVIEWSS SOO MUCH!! AHHHHH!! 😍😍
    You made me sympathetic towards Yejide and NOW I WANNA READ MOREEE! It will be great to know more about Nigerian culture, especially considering the fact that right now I know precious little about them!

    Lovely, lovely review, Emer! As always! 😍😍❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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