Stay with Me by Ayòbámi Adébáyò

Stay with Me is a story that is as interesting as the cover is beautiful. It’s the debut novel by Ayòbámi Adébáyò that plays off in Nigeria in the 1980s. It’s an exploration of love, relationships and infidelity.

Yejide and Akin met when she was at university and fell hopelessly in love.  However, this love story is shrouded by her struggle with infertility. After years of marriage and countless attempts at getting pregnant (including religious pilgrimages) they are still childless. Given that Akin is his mother’s first born son, the pressure on them producing a child is much more severe and of course, puts a lot more pressure on Yejide to conceive.

Despite the interference by her mother in law, Yejide is caught off guard when her in laws arrive at her house and announce that they’ve decided Akin has to take a second wife in hopes of him and the new bride producing a child. Feeling betrayed by her husband and family and despite her pretence of accepting her husband’s second wife, she is determined to fall pregnant and get rid of the wife.

Yejide’s heart-breaking journey as she navigates relationships and her marriage leaves the reader feeling increasingly sympathetic towards her. After pseudocyesis, which puts a heavy strain on her already disintegrating marriage, she eventually falls pregnant, but it might not be her husband’s child. This thought does not even cross her mind, which makes me question Yejide’s mental health (despite the pseudocyesis which I assumed was caused by grief and not mental illness)

However, she isn’t the only person in the marriage who should be feeling guilty. Her husband betrays her in the most shocking way and for some reason do not feel any remorse, but puts the blame solely on Yejide and the person in question. Yejide’s life has not only been darkened by betrayal and a failed marriage, but also the death of two children caused by sickle cell disease. She leaves her husband when his betrayal transpired, but she does not realise what she has given up in doing so, but for fear of giving too much away and spoiling the story for you, I will say no more. There are twists and turns and shocking revelations that will have you turning the pages until late at night (or early morning).

Stay with Me has taken me on a rollercoaster of emotions, but it also highlights some of Nigeria’s history in the 1980s. It was a novel that was a joy to read and I can no doubt say it’s my favourite African fiction novel I’ve read this past year. Give it a try, you won’t regret it!

Disclaimer: I received this book from Penguin Random House for review consideration.