I am admittedly a little late reading Ayòbámi Adébáyò’s debut since it’s release in March. Stay With Me has since made the 2017 Baileys Women’s for fiction shortlist and deservingly so!
Set in Ilesa, Osun State in South West Nigeria Stay With Me is the story of a childless Yejide who along with her husband and family (her mother in law in particular) hopes desperately for a child. It is Ayòbámi’s ability to tell a story of love, loss, and heartbreak against the backdrop of Nigeria’s political turmoil of the 1980’s that gives the reader great insight into Nigeria’s political history whilst engaging with themes of tradition, culture and identity.
Although Yejide’s personal struggle to conceive takes centre stage, the novel is also told from the perspective of her husband, Akin. This dual narrative helps to build a picture of the impact that infertility can have on a married couple.
Personally, as someone who is unfamiliar, the novel has given me great insight into the Yoruba culture: its traditions, distinctiveness and language (Adébáyò inserts the Yoruba language throughout the story) which helpfully contextualises it. This style of writing has parallels with fellow Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichiechi to me. Not to not give Adébáyò her own deserved distinctiveness – but just as Adichie allows the Igbo culture to have heavy influence in each of her novels (whilst offering a critical perspective), so too does Adébáyò with the Yoruba culture, which provides a unique insight for the reader whilst giving centre stage to the characters and their stories. Stay With Me challenges certain ideas within the Yoruba (and many other) cultures about identity, family and womanhood and in doing so pushes the audience to consider the validity of such ideals today.
I particularly loved Adébáyò’s style of writing which was often poetic and appropriately detailed yet simple. As her debut, I’m really looking forward to more from her!
Stay With Me is available here.
Have you read the book? I’d love to hear from you. Comment below