If you want to have your heart ripped out and thrown back inside your ribcage a few times this week, I suggest you read Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo. In a good way, I promise you, in a heartbreakingly beautiful good way. There are so many things about this book that I love and I don’t know where to start with this review!
The main plot is probably the best place. Yejide and Akin met when they were in university, fell in love amidst political upheaval and student protests, and married not long afterwards. As per tradition it is expected that Akin, the eldest son, bears many children, but after several years Yejide still isn’t pregnant. They promised each other when they married that they would not have a polygamous relationship, something that is somewhat commonplace and/or accepted in certain areas of Nigeria, but after a few years Akin is pushed into taking a second wife by his family, something that Yejide takes as a betrayal. Her desire to become pregnant takes over her whole life, and secretly both of them resort to different tactics to ensure they bear children.
The main storyline, this story of two people who love each other so deeply, and who, at the same time, let life and trust come between them, is deceptively simple at first. Ayobami Adebayo winds strings together around her characters, adding layer upon layer of depth until they become real, and you feel their pain and their sadness.
At the same time the backdrop of the story is that of a country ruled by a military junta, of political and civil unrest, and of democracy being laid out and pulled away like a vindictive red carpet. While the story of Yejide and Akin takes the spotlight they do not exist without the continuous unrest in their country. I love how Ayobami Adebayo weaves it into the story seamlessly.
And then there are the little stories of Nigerian culture and traditions that appear through rituals, songs, tales, throughout the story. Providing an overall description of a beautiful country where tradition and culture meet and collide with change.
The story is written through the eyes of both Yejide and Akin, and at two different times: then and now. I found it a little hard to get into at first, but after a few chapters it all made sense.
Stay With Me is such a deeply layered book that I know I will be revisiting it again sometime in the near future. Ayobami Adebayo’s prose is just beautiful and I’m so excited to have discovered her work.