Thursday, 1 March 2018

Stay with me Review #MNBookClub

The second book I read for the Mumsnet Bookclub is Stay With me by Ayòbámi Adébáyò. It's a different book to the type I would usually read, and I think I enjoyed it even more because of that! The book is set in Nigeria, and you have to release your mind from our cultural conventions and fully immerse yourself into the book. There are two narrators to the story, a woman called Yejide and her husband, Akin. They met at university and fell in love, which is how so many stories start, but that is where the similarities end. The couple have been trying to have children for many years, and Yejide's mother-in-law has been attempting to help through as many different superstitious means possible! Yet all her help is to no avail, and this is putting pressure not only on their own relationship, but with Akin's family too. Yejide's own mother died giving birth to her, and her father's other wives brought her up, but are not in any way maternal towards her.

Stay With Me - Ayòbámi Adébáyò

Akin is coerced by his mother to take a second wife, in the hope that she will become pregnant herself, as she clearly believes Yejide is infertile. Initially the second wife lives in a flat, but ends up moving in with them when Yejide has a phantom pregnancy where she has all the symptoms, including her stomach swelling, but no baby. Yejide realises that the only way she is going to be able to save her marriage to the man she adores, is to become pregnant.

When Yejide does finally become pregnant, it is at a huge cost to her family unit. She then has to face the prospect of sickle cell disease in her children. Instead of bringing the couple closer together, this fear deepens the cracks in their marriage. It becomes clear to Yejide that Akin has withheld painful truths from her from the very beginning of their relationship.

Reading Stay With Me - Ayòbámi Adébáyò

The political landscape of Nigeria is volatile at the time the story is set and this is documented throughout the book. It is deeply troubling that people are being shot at protests and armed robbers send letters of their intent to come and rob you! It was an incredibly interesting aspect to the story, and one which I felt made it even more intense.

Stay with me is a heartbreaking story of love, loss and tradition, which is emotive and poignant. I found the book incredibly interesting to read, and also quite difficult in parts due to the subject matter. The women in the story are strong, confident and independent, in spite of a very strong patriarchal traditional way of life. Ayòbámi Adébáyò writes incredibly well and has a wonderful ability to make tangled family relationships appear clearer. She does this through an intimate understanding of her character, and her concerns, her hope and her self-doubt. Whilst the subject matter of the book is intensely sad, the book itself is a wonderful exhibition of the female spirit.


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