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Stay With Me – Ayobami Adebayo
Before I start this review, I’m going to start with some trigger warnings.
Please note this book contains mention of Infertility, Miscarriage, Baby Loss, Infant Loss, Sickle Cell Anaemia and more.
If any of these topics are triggering to you right now, please feel free to skip this review and check many of the other reviews on my site that are a bit lighter reads.
Still with me?
Good, let’s continue.
What is it about?
Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo is about a couple called Yejide and Akin, set in the 1980s set in Nigeria.
Against the unravelling political climate, we watch Yejide and Akin unravel as they try and fail to have a child.
In their culture, not having children means they have failed to further their lineage and so Akin’s mother persuades him to marry another wife, Fummi, who unravels their already strained relationship further.
Eventually, Yejide manages to conceive before Fummi and they have a baby, but what happens next mars the couple in tragedy and unravels their precarious situation they find themselves in.
I’ve written spoiler-filled thoughts, which I’ve hidden so if you don’t want to read this, feel free to skip to the next section.
Akin marrying Fummi
Akin secretly marries Fummi and doesn’t tell Yejide until his mother brings Fummi to the family home.
That just didn’t sit well with me and made me really angry with him, but I got even angrier towards the end when we learn his secret.
I also felt it was unfair for poor Fummi to be used in this way, but she did not help herself a lot of the time by trying to take Yejide’s place.
Yejide then serves Fummi and her mother in law 3 day old food that she was going to throw out and Fummi ends up soiling herself on the highway!
I don’t mean to laugh, but after the bombshell in the last few pages, this was rewarding for sure!
Fummi Coming to Yejide’s Salon
Fummi specifically came to Yejide’s salon to embarrass her in front of her staff and her customers which was really uncool and I didn’t particularly like her from this point onwards.
Yejide going to the Faith Healer
This was one of the most triggering parts for me and the total humiliation of having a goat suckling at Yejide’s breasts was just disgusting.
But when you are desperate you will do anything for a child, and I could understand why she had done this.
When Science fails you, you turn to all the old ways which are usually superstitious to help, but this was extreme to me.
Yejide’s Immaculate Conception
After we learn Akin’s secret at the end, I feel like he should have confessed at this point rather than put Yejide through the 11-month pseudopregnancy the poor woman experienced.
This was just heart wrenching to read but fascinating to find out about.
It had such a negative impact on their relationship, he could have saved her years of torment by confessing now.
Dotun and Yejide
I did not see this coming and it was so gross when it happened because having sex with your brother-in-law even if he is your husband’s half-brother is totally wrong.
Obviously further down the line, we see it wasn’t his idea, but even the fact that Akin actually instructed Dotun to have sex with his wife to get her pregnant was uncalled for.
This really re-inforced the toxic masculinity that some parts of the world still lives in that a child or proof of a child, reinforces the man to feel like a man, but when he himself is infertile, then the woman is blamed for being wrong in some way.
I was not expecting Fummi’s death to have been caused by Akin, that was a twist I did not see coming!
The children’s deaths
First of all, Yejide getting pregnant was a miracle in itself and then to find out that they were all doomed to die because Dotun was a carrier along with Yejide of Sickle Cell Disease was terrible.
I really considered stopping at this point, because one death was hard but 3 were just painful.
I understood why Yejide just gave up with Rootimi because it must have been so hard to give yourself to these children and then they die.
How naive was Yejide that she did not realise that Akin was the one with the issue and not her?
And the fact that he made her feel like a failure for not being able to have a child makes him such an unsympathetic character.
Lastly, asking his brother to sire his children was out of order and tantamount to rape especially as Yejide did not give consent.
As much as I think Akin is a coward for what he did to Yejide and made her believe her child was dead for 10 years, I think he redeems himself by ensuring Timi lives and manages to make contact with her mother.
Would I recommend it?
Despite the major triggers, I can’t stop thinking about Stay With Me’s plot because it really made me question a lot of things.
It opened my eyes to the toxic masculinity that exists in our world (not that I wasn’t aware of course) but the lengths people will go to hide a secret, even gaslighting their partner.
I think this is an interesting and powerful book that should be read if my earlier trigger warnings haven’t put you off.