In 1980s Nigeria, a young married couple, Akin and Yejide, are faced with some difficult choices after being unable to become pregnant after four years. Yejide was clear from the beginning of the marriage that she doesn’t want to practice polygamy, a traditional custom in their homeland. Sadly, Akin is unable to pacify his family any longer and takes a second wife.
This significant act breaks all the cracks in their marriage as both go to dangerous lengths to get Yejide pregnant.
“These days I tell myself that is why I stretched to accommodate every new level of indignity, so that I could have someone who would look for me if I went missing.”
I wanted to love this book so bad. By the end of Part One I thought Stay With Me was going to be on my top ten list of the year. I’m still trying to figure out what happened once I entered Part Two, which I believe is about a third deep into the book.
Part One pretty much lines up with the blurb above, and I was very emotional invested. Yejide’s desperation just soaked into me. I didn’t care if she was a ‘likable’ character or not, I just wanted her to find some peace. Yejide’s run-ins with Fummi, Akin’s second wife, broke my heart, and when her desperation turns to mental illness, my heart was broken again.
What was strong in the beginning, and what endeared me to Yejide, was the condemnation she received on all levels by being ‘barren’. Even though Yejide wants a child, she is treated by family/society as though this is all her fault. This burden, along with her horrible history with her family, is why I understood why she made the decisions she did.
However, there are a couple big events that happen in the beginning of Part Two that change the whole vibe of the book. I started to lose touch with Yejide, and lose sympathy for Akin, as Stay With Me starts to become more concerned with twist and turns. In fact, there’s so many of them that now I feel as though I can’t discuss anything more because everything I want to talk about is a spoiler.
So I really wish I could dive deeper into this book, but it would be all spoilers. Stay With Me has merit, especially being a debut novel, but becomes super bleak. This might be why I had a hard time emotionally with the back half of this book. So many horrible things were happening, some of it nightmare fuel to me, that I had to shut down.
Since Stay With Me is getting lots of praise, I would advise checking it out if you were already interested, just realize that this is a depressing ride.
**Thank you NetGalley and Knopf Doubleday for providing this ARC for a honest review.