I’m never quite sure what has me rate a book 5 stars. I rarely do so. I think I save my 5 stars for books that have me fully intellectually and emotionally engaged. Stay With Me was that kind of reading experience. Set in Nigeria between the mid 1980s and 2008, Stay With Me is about the tortuous relationship between Yejide and Akin, and their heartbreaking road to parenthood. I don’t want to say too much about the story because it’s best to experience its emotional punch as it unfolds but here are some of the things I loved about Stay With Me:
-I loved the portrayal of Yejide. No one will agree with all of her decisions but Adebayo has created a character that felt so real. The consequences of losing her mother at birth are perfectly woven into this angry, aching and intelligent character.
-There is a lot of love in this book, but it is love between humans. So it comes at a price including bad decisions made out of love, silence where speaking is needed and avoidance because of the fear of loss.
-I loved the portrayal of contemporary Nigeria. As someone who knows relatively little about Nigeria, this book gave me a strong sense of the interplay of traditional culture, modernity and political unrest. Yejide and Akin are university educated and relatively well to do. Yejide runs her own hair salon and Akin works for a bank. Yet they both come from traditional polygamous families, and there is much pressure on Akin to take on a second wife — something Yejide vehemently opposes.
-Although Stay With Me is relatively short, a lot happens in this story and much of it is unexpected. This is not a story with a typical narrative arc but it is carefully and beautifully constructed.
-Adebayo treads intelligently on morally charged territory.
-And the ending — yikes — had me weepy.
I loved it. I highly recommend it. Although I suspect that many will struggle with many of Yejide and Akin’s choices and actions. Thank You Netgalley- Knopf Doubleday Publishing- and the ‘star’ of this book: Ayobami Adebayo