Was it only my friends and I who chanted Sam Smith’s stay with me chorus when they saw this book?
Ayobami Adebayo’s moving romance has some sparing truthful quotes about love:
“If the burden is too your 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.”
“Besides, what would be left of love without truth stretched beyond it’s limits, without those better versions of ourselves that we present as the only ones that exist?”
After reading lauding reviews, captivating interviews of the author and visual feasting on three paperback designs of the novel. I longed to read about the Nigerian marriage assailed by infertility, family interference, infidelity, loneliness and sickle cell disease. I was curious about the characters their feelings, their love and how adultery, polygamy would hinder their love. Would this love and struggle to have a child bring them closer or heal their loneliness? The struggle did not.
Ayobami Adebayo’s profound tale of Yejide and Akin Ajayi’s marriage will stay with you. With its engaging themes of love, desperation, loss, infidelity, family interference, loneliness and insecurity. It is geographically set, in Ilesa, Osun state, Jos, Plateau state and Lagos state in Nigeria during the 80s and 2008. The narrative is told by the main characters, Yejide the motherless heroine and Akin the secret hiding hero. It bounces in between the present 2008 where Yejide goes to Akin’s father’s burial ceremony and the 80s tale of their marriage and it’s tribulations.
It was an emotional read during my weekend. The story showed the beauty and unbearable pressure of Yoruba culture on the couple. Stay With Me takes you to the traditional Yoruba setting of family and marriage. By sharing similar tales you’ve heard your neighbors live. The raw, hurt, hopeful, despair filled, angry yet hesitant tone of the novel follows it’s plot. There were two revelations in the book that had me agreeing with Jennifer Makumini, author of Kintu that Ayobami is an astounding story teller.
“Rotimi- stay with me”
This was the name given to Yejide and Akin’s third child. The source of the title of the blook was revealed well into the book. Earlier I had assumed it came from Yejide’s alarming need for Akin and his love for her, in hopes it would dispell their loneliness. Later my guess was her desperate, heart breaking struggle to have Sesan, the second child not die from sickle cell disease. I was mistaken. Unlike the first two children who died. Rotimi, Timi stayed.
This book taught me not to assume. Revelations of truths about the paternity, source of title and also Yejide’s fatal assumption all had me screaming twice. It also drew me to think about sickle cell disease a lot more. Weeks prior to this I watched Wanawana Udobang’s Warriors short films on YouTube interviewing adults living with sickle cell in Nigeria. These are films worth watching. A person who has a child does not own the world. Don’t attach your worth as a human to relationships or children. I love this heart wrenching romance novel. It was worth the read.
The author holds BA and MA degrees in Literature in English. Ayobami is a recipient of fellowships and residencies. She also autgraphed the book for me. An almost lover had her do that across seas, how romantic. She writes my sweet name beautifully.
Brief Thought: There is a popular Nigerian saying that a woman who can’t have a child is a man. What is a man who can’t impregnate a woman?
Image source: amethystShotX