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SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2017 BAILEYS WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION'There are things even love can't do . . . If the burden is too much and stays too long, even love bends, cracks, comes close to breaking and sometimes does break. But even when it's in a thousand pieces around your feet, that doesn't mean it's no longer love . . .'Yejide is hoping for a miracle, for a child. It is all her husband wants, all her mother-in-law wants, and she has tried everything - arduous pilgrimages, medical consultations, appeals to God. But when her relatives insist upon a new wife, it is too much for Yejide to bear. It will lead to jealousy, betrayal and despair.Unravelling against the social and political turbulence of 1980s Nigeria, Stay With Me sings with the voices, colours, joys and fears of its surroundings. Ayobami Adebayo weaves a devastating story of the fragility of married love, the undoing of family, the wretchedness of grief, and the all-consuming bonds of motherhood. It is a tale about our desperate attempts to save ourselves and those we love from heartbreak.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
As a teenager, I watched my mother support four children on her own and I vowed that I wouldn’t procreate. Then I grew up, got married and desperately wanted children. I was reminded of this while reading Stay With Me, which follows Yejide in her attempt to circumvent her motherless past from repeating itself by becoming not just a mother, but a present mother.
Motherhood is just one strand of Stay With Me. The premise that opens the story is the fiction to which Yejide has been subjected, and eventually woven herself - that she is a barren wife, living apart from her husband who has been instructed by his family to take a second wife in order to provide him with the legacy of children.
Of course, it’s not as simple as that. This is a story, after all.
At no point in Stay With Me is the old Nigerian custom of taking multiple wives held up as a point of ridicule or scorn. It simply exists in the world of the novel and I became accustomed to it as normality. This is not an overtly political story, but a universal tale of devotion and desire; of family ties and betrayal. The way that Ayóbámi Adébáyò conveys her themes is accessible and inclusive. Cultural differences are irrelevant in the face of the love of a child, the loss of a parent or the hopelessness of the human condition.
Yejide is a brilliant protagonist. She’s feisty, clever and resourceful. Not to mention funny, passionate and a little crazy. Surreal scenes of her holistic mountain top quest for fertility are interspersed with heartbreaking recounts of her motherless childhood. Stay With Me is written from the points of view of both Yejide and her husband Akin, giving us two sides of the story; of love and of devotion and how the couple perceive each other and their wider family.
In this way Stay With Me touches every familial relationship out there. From step mother to cousin, from brother in law to lover and many more besides. The complexities of family politics are common to us all, and this book draws you into the inner circle of this family’s very tangled web.
Ayóbámi Adébáyò’s language and dialogue is so very appealing. Her vibrant representations of this close knit Nigerian community are not only well observed but also full of genuine warmth and humour. The backdrop of military juntas in Nigeria is so normalised that the horror of that part of the country’s history is peripheral. At one stage, the family and their neighbours receive a series of polite notes of warning from the criminals who are planning to rob them. Adébáyò manages to write this part of the story with a degree of humour that actually helps to convey the ordinariness of this experience.
Ironically for such an apparently patriarchal society, the strongest force within the book is that of the women whose power lies in their fertility. The desire for a lasting parental bond is so strong for Yejide that it forces her to leave her child rather than risk losing it. Her mother-in-law, the only matriarch who Yejide will call Moomi, repeatedly calls on her to be strong in the the face of her repeated tragedies, but no one is superhuman.
Patterns of fate and history litter this book. One military government replaces another, the sins of the parents are visited on the children, motherlessness is cyclical and repeated; we all essentially turn into our parents. Yejide is destined to do the same, and the bittersweet end to this story is entirely fitting to these patterns. Now, as an adult, I am proud of the moments that I suspect I have turned into my mother. To have such a strong Moomi is a great blessing and, for me, Stay With Me has validated and reinforced this sentiment.
Scorching, gripping, ultimately lovely -- Margaret Atwood This terrific first novel (shortlisted for the Baileys women's prize for fiction) deals with the daily stresses of living with the political upheavals of the time but the real drama is happening in Yejide's womb. Adebayo unfolds the many layers of truth with insight and skill * * The Times * * A thoroughly contemporary style that is all her own . . . clever and funny . . . despite the intense sadness of her subject matter, she has produced a bright, big-hearted demonstration of female spirit, as well as the damage done by the boundlessness of male pride * * Guardian * * Has a remarkable emotional resonance and depth of field [ . . . Adebayo] is an exceptional storyteller. She writes not just with extraordinary grace but with genuine wisdom about love and loss and the possibility of redemption. She has written a powerfully magnetic and heartbreaking book * * New York Times * * One of the must-reads books of the year so far: Stay With Me has it all, including big themes of love, grief and jealousy, a fantastic female protagonist plus it reads like a page-turning thriller * * Stylist * * Affecting and powerful . . . Adebayo's prose is a pleasure: immediate, unpretentious and flecked with whip-smart Nigerian-English dialogue * * Sunday Times * * This deeply impressive novel of infertility, loneliness and longing is the first by the hotly-tipped Adebayo and it packs a tremendous punch * * Daily Mail * * This confident and fearless writer challenges us to think about marriage from all perspectives in her first novel . . . Stay With Me is the closely observed, heartbreaking and original tale of the desperate attempts we make to save ourselves from severing the very bonds that make us * * ELLE * * This impressive debut creates, in deceptively simple prose, a portrait of a marriage in crisis in a deeply patriarchal and oppressive society * * Mail on Sunday * * This tale of a Nigerian couple under familial pressure to conceive is a subtle and unsentimental triumph . . . A tale of real complexity and humanity, part psychological observation and social study * * Financial Times * *