Saturday, 24 June 2017

Book Review: Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo


Author: Ayobami Adebayo

Pages: 298

Publication: 2nd March 2017 by Canongate

Reason for Reading: STAY WITH ME was recently shortlisted for the Bailey’s Prize for Women’s Fiction 2017 and quickly became a favourite among followers of the prize.

'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, dances with prophets, appeals to God. But when her in-laws 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 80s 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.


It’s hard to believe that STAY WITH ME is Adebayo’s debut novel; it’s intense, emotional, and is beautifully written. All of this makes for an extremely addictive read. I’ve heard some people describe this book as a thriller about a marriage, and whilst I don’t entirely agree, I do see where they’re coming from. So much happens in this book! There are twists and turns, and more drama than you can shake a stick at.

STAY WITH ME is narrated by both Yejide and her husband Akin, and at times, it’s difficult to tell who is narrating the story. I really enjoyed this aspect, as it reflected what happens when you’re married and share the same experiences, but then have different interpretations of events.

The story happens against the backdrop of Nigeria’s political turmoil in the 1980s, which on the one hand was interesting, because I didn’t know much about Nigeria’s history apart from what I’d picked up from Chinelo Okparanta’s UNDER THE UDALA TREES and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s AMERICANAH. On the other hand, I also feel like this aspect could have been not included and it wouldn’t have detracted from my reading experience.

I loved the interweaving of fairytales into the story because they made me feel more connected to the characters. What I found particularly surprising was how much I connected to Yejide despite never having been a mother myself. She is such a strong-minded character and to see her worn down by grief was heartbreaking. I also collected many of Yejide’s quotes about love because I found them overwhelmingly poignant.

The change in time was a little confusing to begin with, but I really liked how the present was narrated in the 2nd person. I got used to it and in the end the switching of time wasn’t an issue any longer.

Overall, I give STAY WITH ME 4 out of 5 stars. I’m so pleased it was shortlisted for the Bailey’s, otherwise I would not have come across it, and now it will reach the wider audience it deserves. I cannot wait to see more from Adebayo in the future.

EDIT 01/08/2017: I'm updating this review to 5 out of 5 stars because I recently talked about it with someone and realised just how much it stayed with me and how much I loved it.

Have you read STAY WITH ME? What did you think? I'd love to chat about it in the comments below!
Happy reading,