What’s it all about?:
Yejide and Akin have been married since they met and fell in love at university. Though many expected Akin to take several wives, he and Yejide have always agreed: polygamy is not for them. But four years into their marriage–after consulting fertility doctors and healers, trying strange teas and unlikely cures–Yejide is still not pregnant. She assumes she still has time–until her family arrives on her doorstep with a young woman they introduce as Akin’s second wife. Furious, shocked, and livid with jealousy, Yejide knows the only way to save her marriage is to get pregnant, which, finally, she does, but at a cost far greater than she could have dared to imagine. An electrifying novel of enormous emotional power, Stay With Me asks how much we can sacrifice for the sake of family.
What did I think?:
Stay With Me was the first book on my Five Star TBR Predictions list, was short-listed for the Baileys Women’s Prize For Fiction last year and I had heard nothing but rave reviews about it, with some people suggesting it should have won. I can’t comment on that as I have yet to read the rest of the short-list for last year but when I saw the author speak at the short-list readings just prior to the winner being announced, I knew it was going to be an incredibly powerful and affecting read and in this, I was completely right. I have to say, I did approach this novel with a bit of nervousness. I knew that it was about a woman who is struggling to get pregnant and unfortunately, this chimes quite a melancholy note in my own life. I was concerned that reading it it would be too difficult for me, emotionally speaking and it might send me back to a “bad place,” I found myself in last year. Now after finishing it, I can proclaim it is probably a difficult read for any person who has found themselves in a similar situation but an intensely rewarding one. I cried with Yejide, felt the weight of her despair and sadness and did not find myself wholly surprised at the lengths she went to in her struggles to have a child.
It’s quite difficult to talk in great length about this book without giving away any spoilers but I’ll just give you a vague idea of what it’s about, in case you haven’t managed to read it yet. It’s about a married couple, Yejide and Akin who have been together for some time and as you might have guessed, are struggling to have a baby together. They have decided to live a monogamous lifestyle, despite the expectations of their culture but Akin’s family, particularly his mother, are starting to get a little impatient and insist that he takes a second wife in order to give him a much longed for child. Of course, this is devastating for Yejide and the novel follows her as she confronts the idea and then the reality of this new wife, whilst doing everything she possibly can under immense pressure to provide the baby everyone is expecting of her. This leads to her experimenting with fertility concoctions that she drinks, visiting healers and opening her mind to spirituality, all with the dogged determination to become pregnant whatever the cost and oust the cuckoo from her nest.
There were parts of this book that were so visceral and utterly heart-breaking that occasionally I had to put the book down and take a break from it for a little while. However, there was no time at all that I didn’t want to go back to it. I fell in love with Yejide and had to know how her story continued, how much this strong woman could actually go through and keep living and how her story ended. Interspersed with snippets of Nigeria’s unstable political climate in the 1980’s, this story felt raw, painful and undeniably real. This is a story of secrets and lies with twists that will take your breath away and periods of intense grief that will touch your heart. It’s a stunning piece of writing that I cannot believe came from a debut novelist. Ayobami Adebayo is a literary force to be reckoned with and I have no doubt that anything she writes in future will be touched with gold.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):