Review by

Stay With Me

Not flawless but pretty impressive nonetheless

Yejide and Akin fall head over heals in love when they meet at university in Ife, Nigeria in the 1980s. Marriage follows soon thereafter as should babies, but none arrive. The humiliation of childlessness (particularly strong in Nigeria) propels Yejide, Akin and the tenacious mother-in-law to go to extreme lengths to fix it, jeopardising their mental health and relationship on the way. I was gripped by 26-year-old Adébáyò’s storytelling, despite her sometimes uneven writing. An easy, accessible novel that should garner many fans.

After numerous visits to doctors and quacks, including one that makes Yejide breastfeed a goat, a second wife seems the only solution to Akin and his mother. A decision that will haunt them forever.

It’s hard to write more about the storyline of this novel without revealing too much of the plot, so I won’t. Suffice to say that it touches upon the shame of childlessness, trust, betrayal, loss and, of course, love. It’s the personal dramas that drive this novel forward. The political dramas (Nigeria went through a particularly tumultuous time during the 1980’s) rumbles on in the background but almost seem superfluous. Adébáyò gives us a fascinating glimpse into Nigerian culture, though, a country where superstition and tradition collide with modern society.

Although 26 year old Adébáyò is a gifted storyteller, her writing jars at times. Some of her metaphors lack power and occasionally the dialogue feels bland. I wish we could get to know some of the characters a bit better, particularly Akin. Having said that, I raced through this book, wanting to know what would happen next. The novel is cleverly structured with shifting perspectives and jumps in time, sprinkled with hints to keep our curiosity going.

Stay With Me is published by Canongate, 296 pages.

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