Title : Stay With Me
Author : Ayobami Adebayo
“See, we are not asking you to stand up from your place in his life, we are just saying you should shift so that someone else can sit down.”
Ayobami Adebayo’s “Stay with Me” is set up in ILESA (Nigeria) 1985 through to the 21st century in JOS 2008 and follows the story of Nigerian Couple Akin Ajayi and Yejide
Theirs was a love at first sight fueled by the workings of fate and the death of three students in a University protest. Their tale is brought to life surrounded by the company of supporting characters, Dotun – Akin’s womanising younger brother, Iya Bolu – a rival hairdresser, Moomi – Akin’s mother and Yejide’s stepmothers who took over their home after her own mother died in childbirth.
The couple are deeply in love and had agreed that polygamy was not their thing. But soon you realise that 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.
One of these is the burden of childlessness after 4 years of marriage which send Yejide into a pit of desperacy . This was greatly reinforced By Akin’s position as a first born son and hence his responsibility to produce an heir and the persistence of his mother “Moomi.”
Ayobami introduces us to what is all too common in most African societies – exploring the roll of societal pressures and popular notions held on womanhood and how they are disproportionately affected by the burden of childlessness.
“Women manufacture children and if you can’t you are just a man.”
The elders even go as far as bringing a second wife in attempts to bear their much desired heir. This was one of the most dramatic scenes for me in the book because of the language used by the characters. “If you don’t, he will die childless. I beg you, don’t spoil my life. He is my first son, Yejide. I beg you in the name of God.’
Desperate times call for desperate measures and we see Yejide go breast feed a white goat without wound or blemish on the mountain of “Jaw dropping miracles.”
After a couple of fails, her determination to have children and silence societal pressures finally pays off and she bears children only for us to be introduced to the genetic interplay of sickle cell disease.
“they named her Rotimi, a name that implied that she was an Abiku child who had come into the world intending to die as soon as she could. Rotimi – stay with me.”
Stay with me explores a wide range of topics from loss, polygamy, infertility, infidelity, pride, betrayal, masculinity and to a lesser extent mental health.
She also hints on the political climate where students are shot during protests, elections are nullified by the military and armed robbers give advance notice before robbing neighbourhoods.
Often times we naturally sympathise with the protagonist and demonize all other characters but in this book Ayobami Adebayo shared perspectives from both Akin and Yejide. This leaves you flipping the blame game because nothing is black and white and there are always those grey areas to consider.
As I read this book I honestly kept landing face first on the twists and turns in the book. It keeps you on your toes and scenes move from pure ecstasy to deep seated agony and vice versa in a matter of paragraphs.
I loved that Ayobami uses folk tales like “He who has children owns the world” or the “tale of the of Oluronbi and the Iroko tree” to further cement her themes in our minds.
I must admit though that I wished the supporting characters were developed a bit more because most of them were witty and often blurted out dramatic statements that brought a tinge of humour to this mostly heart breaking book.
As Ayobami’s debut book, stay with me for me was easy to digest and I read it in three seatings. I also thought her use of language was excellent and easy to understand and she brought her themes to life with ease.
The rest of my thoughts can be shared better over tea with the author.
Have you read this book? What were your thoughts? Please share with me in the comment section.
Bellows of Love
©Tales of a Curious mind