Thoughts on| Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo

stay with me

“Sometimes I think we have children because we want to leave behind someone who can explain who we are to the world when we are gone.” 

This quote in Chapter 17 of the book sums up Yejide’s whole quest for motherhood

Goodreads summary: Yejide and Akin have been married since they met and fell in love at university...

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The title Stay With Me, can be translated to “Duro timi” or “Rotimi” in Yoruba (the author’s native language, and the native tongue of the characters). This fact brings new meaning and more depth to the story later on. The first time I saw this book, I was intrigued by the cover (the bright green leaves, and the author’s name boldly written complete with the Yoruba signs). I just had to pick it up! But then I read the summary, and I just rolled my eyes. If you grew up watching Nollywood movies, like me, the story of a couple with fertility issues and intrusive family members placing the onus of childbirth of the woman, is a tale that’s been seen 1001 times. So I wasn’t really looking forward to reading the book. I think what pushed me forward was the author’s Yoruba name (if I don’t support my people, who will?!) Ayobami proved me wrong with this tale though. I mean, the story is pretty predictable, but I was still drawn into her descriptions. By the time it got to the climax, I was shocked by an event that I already saw coming! 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, the inclusion of timeless Nigerian folktales (the re-imagination of Oluronbi, is in alignment with Yejide’s character); the sense of home that I felt reading this book; even the slight jabs at Nigerian mannerisms/culture, and the eye-roll moments. But let’s talk about parenting though! 

I like how the author depicts the two parents longing for a child (maybe Yejide was more dramatic because she was the person receiving most of the blame). Adebayo made Akin an involved father, instead of the stereotypical absent male figure, and it was refreshing to see.

The novel also highlighted the traditional belief that mothers have to suffer for their children–not only to bring them into the world, but to worry about their children’s wellbeing at the mother’s expense. I like how Yejide took a step back when she realised that all the health scares were just causing her pain. I hate that it was to the detriment of her child, but I like the aspect of self-perseverance involved in her decision.

I think Akin really loved Yejide. If he loved her hard enough to spare some of his pride, maybe their marriage would have lasted.

I saw some parallels with this book and Lola Shoneyin’s The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives. They similar plot lines; the issue of polygamy is also addressed in Shoneyin’s novel. In fact, when I first read Iya Martha’s character (in Stay with me) I immediately thought of Iya Segi from The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives. Another common theme is disbelief of modern medicine among some traditional people (Baba Segi in TSLSW and Moomi in SWM). I think Akin is a better father than Baba Segi but that’s just my assessment. Maybe because he’s more modern. 

The novel is not perfect, but it’s pretty good. The narration is lyrical and the story is heart-wrenching. The setting, Osun (a state in Nigeria) in the 1980s felt nostalgic. I look forward to reading Ayobami Adebayo’s other works.

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