Book review: Stay with me by Ayobami Adebayo

Stay with me follows a couple in 80’s Nigeria who are under intense pressure from their extended family to have a child. Over time, they internalise this pressure and their desire for a child consumes them to the point where they consider no method to be too extreme. I’m from an Asian background, so some of the cultural elements, like the pressure Yejide and Akin are under, the comments that their family make and the judgements of their community, were not surprising to me. These are things I’ve seen in my own culture. What did enrage me was that the two of them never stood together in the face of these things, and the decisions they ultimately made. I guess the lesson in this story is to just talk to your partner, to be honest and not deceive each other- because in the end, as Yejide points out, the biggest lies you’ll end up telling are the ones you tell yourself.

I really can’t decide on how to rate this book. The writing is very absorbing, the way Adebayo sets up the characters and the scenes makes it very easy to become invested in the story and it had me hooked from beginning to end. But. It’s so intense! The characters are complex but also kind of terrible, and a lot of the horrible things that happen could have been avoided if they were all just honest with each other. So it’s quite frustrating to read.

I think the best way I can describe it would be as a horror story about a marriage, there’s really nothing in it that’s hopeful so you end up feeling quite melancholy when it ends. It’s certainly not what I expected when I picked it up, as I had the impression it was going to be a love story initially.

When I finished this book my first thought was that it suffered from ‘A little life’ syndrome, in that by the end you feel like everything that could possibly have gone wrong, had gone wrong, and it became a little unbelievable. Unlike ‘A little life’ however, this book is not too long, and the story is paced in a way that it never feels too slow. (The writing style redeems the crazy plot!)

I really want to see what else this author comes up with, this was a brilliant debut. Even though I found the characters and some of the plot too intense, the writing itself was really great. I’m crossing my fingers that whatever Adebayo writes next is a bit more hopeful! I would still recommend this book to people, but maybe with caution. It is certainly an engaging and thought-provoking story, but it’s definitely not a happy one.

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