You must agree with me that I’ve been having such an incredible reading experience judging from my most recent reading choices. I am not yet over Chimamamada’s Half of a Yellow Sun, Lola’s The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives and now Adebayo’s Stay With Me. What’s striking is that they are all female African literary figures. I am just a shopper of powerful literature.
Stay With Me is an emotionally intense story woven around a war-torn Nigeria in the 1980s. It is a beautifully crafted narrative that amplifies the challenges of a transitioning state whose people are trapped in the dilemma of tradition and the approaching modernity. It’s a story of a young educated couple that tries to wade through the challenges of a childless marriage. Not even education can water down some retrogressive cultural beliefs and practices. The most shocking one is the myopic view of traditionalists towards women as “manufacturers of children”.
“Women manufacture children and if you can’t you are just a man. Nobody should call you woman.” (Moomi, Akin’s mother)
Akin and Yejide meet in university and get married when the flames of their love are bright and sharp. They know that polygamy is not a road they can tread. However, they fail at this promise. Terribly. Desperation sets in their marriage after three years of trying to get a child. Of the two, the woman is the most desperate as she is the designated cause of childlessness in the marriage.
Adebayo creates flawed characters who are victims of their own society. In their desperate attempt to bear children, both Akin and Yejide fall into the traps of polygamy, infidelity and betrayal. As flawed as the characters are, you will not get angry at them but deeply sympathise and empathise with them due to their unending tragedies.
Would you stay if you found out that your marriage was a stained fabric knit with lies? Akin lives with a lie that he is not willing to reveal to his wife. You will love the twists in the plot but will hate how troubled your heart will get. The lies cost the two characters their world. Their world shatters right before their eyes.
The writer uses the first-person narration to achieve a gripping story told in the voices of the two main characters. This allows you to hear their sides of the story and feel their pain and desperation. This makes it hard for you to judge any of the two. Vivid descriptions and monologues in the story will allow you to peep into the painful realities of their worlds.
This is a thoroughly captivating and a heartbreaking read. You will love reading it and hate how it will make you feel.