#LipglossmaffiaBookclub: Stay With Me||Ayobami Adebayo…
Welcome back to book review session of the blog! I hope you have been keeping up with the #ReadingChallenge? We are done with the first half of the year and I have read so many interesting books already. Been introduced to so many new authors, local and international ones and the best part is the new friends I have made on Instagram in the reading community(#Bookstagram). These reviews only comes up twice a month but I do post other books that I’m reading on Instagram, so you should definitely check out @lipglossmaffia for more book recommendations. I have also started a virtual bookclub on Whatsapp, if you would like to join, just click on this link. Meanwhile, if you would like to keep up with the challenge, here is the 2017 reading challenge.
For my thirteenth pick, I chose…
*A Book That Is Published In 2017
Title: Stay With Me
Publisher: Ouida Books
Release Date: 2o17
My Ratings: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Summary: 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.
If you are a Nigerian, this is a pretty common story, yes?
Ayobami Adebayo’s debut novel, Stay With Me, follows the struggle of a young married couple, Yejide and Akin, who are finding it impossible to conceive. It explores the way in which societal pressures of 1980s Nigeria pushes their relationship to its limits, causing desperation, betrayal and grief. Essentially, this is a story of love and loss.
The most enjoyable aspect of this book is its unpredictability. I was expecting to read about the heart-wrenching emotions of a childless mother; however, this novel extends far beyond that. While at times I felt extreme compassion for Yejide, who believes that the only way to achieve a sense of belonging in the world is through having a child, in other places she was stubborn, rude and calculated. Equally, I expected to loathe her husband Akin, a wife-replacing, misogynistic first son; instead, his compassion and dedication often made my support lie more with him than his wife. The plot that drives this character development makes Stay With Me a gripping and compulsive read.
Yejide and Akin are under great pressure to conceive, and much of this burden falls on Yejide herself, as it is perceived to be some kind of ‘failure’ on her part. Yejide longs for motherhood, and it’s gut-wrenching what she goes through in order to become a mother. However, Akin, as a firstborn son, faces a pressure of a different kind. At the start of the novel, Akin’s mother introduces Yejide to the second wife she has arranged for him. Akin’s mother believes that Yejide is unable to have children, and that this is the only solution to their perceived problem. It is clear, in their reflections of the past, that Yejide and Akin loved each other deeply, and these outside influences who claim to ‘help’ their marriage, ultimately poison it.
One of the things I liked the most about this novel was Ayobami Adebayo’s characters. She manages to create realistically flawed, sometimes unlikeable characters, that I nonetheless felt so much sympathy for. Yejide, in particular, I found it impossible not to like. I’d expected to prefer Yejide’s narration over Akin’s, but this was not the case. I really liked the dual perspective, and felt that it really contributed to the narrative as a whole. As you might expect, Yejide and Akin keep plenty of secrets from each other, and many of these are revealed to the reader before the other party ever hears of them, meaning that while their chapters were often discussing the same period of time, you’re always getting new information. I also found that Yejide and Akin’s narrative voices were incredibly distinct; it was always clear whose chapter I was reading. This allowed for an intimate portrayal of both their characters and their relationship, and even when I didn’t agree with their actions, I could always understand why they were making the decisions they did.
Aside from its emotive power, Stay With Me is also in possession of a dynamite narrative. Akin and Yejide are both far more honest with their imagined audience than they are with each other, creating a rare intimacy between the characters and the reader; I felt like the mutual friend of a troubled couple, hearing both perspectives but unable to intervene. The alternating structure also allows Adébáyọ̀ to pull off the plot twists adroitly, in a fashion that recalls Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies in its acknowledgement of the possibility of knowing very little about one’s partner. In writing this review, I’ve referred back to my copy of Stay With Me and found myself being shocked once more; the impact of the plot developments doesn’t diminish with time. The book is also a true cautionary tale of involving extended families in a marriage, with Akin’s mother and brother both playing their roles in the development of Akin and Yejide’s marital trauma.
I was a little apprehensive of returning to Stay With Me: what if, on second reading, its appeal had dissipated? I’m not sure I could have handled the disappointment but, luckily, I didn’t have to; if anything, glancing through it once more has enabled me to pick up more of Adébáyọ̀’s subtle clues and nuanced characterization. I’m already planning to read it again. It’s a book that breaks your heart, puts it back together only to shatter it again; I really implore you to grab a copy immediately.
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