TRIGGER WARNING: This book contains themes related to childlessness and child loss. Please proceed with caution if you are sensitive to this type of material.
This is most definitely the year of diverse reads. I’ve read so many great novels in the past eight months about other cultures, other people, other gender identities, and everything in between. I mean, I can go on about how amazing diverse books has changed my world view.
STAY WITH ME by Ayobami Adebayo is no exception to this rule. In its tiny 250+ pages, I’m so surprised by how jam-packed it is with themes.
When I first started reading STAY WITH ME, I was anticipating a novel about a woman’s struggle with getting pregnant and having children. That on its own is a pretty heavy theme and could easily be a full story.
As it unfolds this book isn’t only about childlessness, it’s also about child loss (trigger warning), societal pressures of having children, male and female gender roles in raising a child, phantom pregnancy, polygamy, adultery, and male impotence and the “blame” of impotence put on the mother. It was like the author decided one day that she wanted to cover a lot of issues two partners could potentially have when it comes to having a child.
Also, it takes into consideration the thought process for Akin, Yejide’s husband, and what he’s going through. Honestly, I’m so surprised that his narrative was also included bringing to light the kind of lengths men also go through to make their wives happy. It takes two to make a baby and Akin isn’t the typical male perspective, which made me love the book even more.
I think one of the most important themes here is the psychology of a woman desperate to have her own child. Yejide, the main character, is thrown into a polygamist relationship when her husband’s family brings home another woman her husband has married. Even though polygamy is accepted in this culture, it’s almost a catalyst for Yejide to do everything in her power to have a child. Can you imagine spending four years trying to have a child with your husband only to be “replaced” by another woman who may be able to get the job done?
So this new wife comes into the picture and completely upsets Yejide’s psyche. She finds herself asking questions like “what if she’s better at sex than I am? What if my husband finds her more attractive than me? What if she becomes the first wife and I’m relegated to the second wife?” You can only imagine the kind of urgency she must be feeling at this time and how that triggers her obsession with having a child of her own.
When she finally does start having children, everything begins to unravel. I won’t go into it because it’ll definitely spoil the book, but I will say that it’s expertly written, beautifully poignant, brings up a ton of “taboo” topics even for an American audience, and makes you think about how much you love your own mother and the kind of love only a mother can provide their daughter.
I’m so surprised from a debut author how amazing this novel is. Usually you get these debut novels that try too hard to be sophisticated and edgy. Even Toni Morrison’s first novel THE BLUEST EYE wasn’t her best work (IMO), but for Ayobami Abedayo I think this is the beginning of an amazing career for her.
I strongly recommend this book to you all and it may cause a few of you to shed some tears because while I wasn’t tearing up at the story, I was definitely gasping at every major event happening in this couple’s life.
Find it on goodreads.com.
I received this book for free from Knopf in exchange for an honest review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.