A novel by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀
Stay with me is the debut novel by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀. It is a story about a couple, Akin and Yejide and their struggle with infertility.
Narrated in first person by the couple and centered around actual events that shaped the political landscape of Nigeria, this book feels almost autobiographical rather than a work of fiction.
It explores the desperation of Yejide to conceive which is fueled by a society where married women are expected to bear children and if they don't, well a replacement is never far of. Akin, her husband, is eager to ease his wife's sorrow and shift the focus from her perceived infertility so he does not object to taking a second wife, Funmi.
However, Yejide conceives before fumni does and funmi dies in suspicious circumstances. Unbeknownst to Yejide, her conception was perfectly orchestrated by her husband in a bid to protect his secret and she falls into her husband's plan hook, line and sinker.
Since Akin's plan works the couple has 3 children. But having children is not the bliss they expected. The first child does not make it long after birth and the second succumbs to sickle cell. Having gone through the highs and lows of naturing two children whom she loses in the long run, Yejide does not have the heart to care for her third child once she finds out that the child also has sickle cell. She also discovers her husband's secret and learns of how he exploited her naivete and the plan he deviced to get her pregnant in order to keep his secret. Distraught, she leaves on a trip to attend a wedding and never comes back.
The story culminates on her return years later where she will find out whether her third child survived or not.
It is a roller coaster of a book that can be mentally draining given the subject matter and they style of writing. At some point, the narrative seems to drag along especially when it comes to reading through the tragedy of the first two children that the couple has. I found myself getting turned off when I found out that Yejide was pregnant for a third time especially because sickle cell is genetic and given the risks, I assumed she would not get pregnant from the same gene pool for a third time.
That said, I couldn't put this book down because it is a captivating tale full of suspense. The characters are not only richly developed but they are also told in a manner that makes them appear real and familiar. It is the kind of book that even though you have figured out how it ends, you still keep reading because the writing is that good!
I give it 4.0 ⭐⭐⭐⭐.