This is definitely a book I wouldn’t have picked up on my own, but am glad my book club chose it. It’s nice to read outside my comfort zone every once in a while, and especially when the book turns out to be one that works out for you.
Stay With Me is nominally a book about a Nigerian woman named Yejide whose husband brings home a second wife, because Yejide is unable to get pregnant, and his family is pressuring them to have a child. The rest of the book details the emotional fallout from his doing so. But the focus is way less on the polygamous marriage than it is on the original marriage, and on the main Yejide’s emotional arc. In fact, I think the blurb way overplays the polygamy angle. If you go into the book looking for that specifically, you’ll probably be disappointed.
I wasn’t quite sure about this book until the ending, though it’s not a hard book to get in to. The writing is engaging, and Adebayo has a way of making you feel for her characters, especially the main character Yejide, even as you’re not quite sure what’s going on. Part of that is by design (the plot purposefully obscures certain things for reveals at the right moments) and part of it is just getting used to the setting and the terms of the world. I was not at all familiar with Nigerian culture in the 80s going in to this book, but it didn’t take long to catch on to the important stuff via context clues. I’m sure there were nuances I missed, though.
But honestly, it wasn’t really that much more jarring than reading in my preferred genres of sci-fi and fantasy, with all the worldbuilding you have to get used to. And in the end, it’s not really that stuff that matters (in most good books), it’s the characters and story that populate that world. Some of the individual scenes and events threw me a little (ahem, goat on the mountain), but the core of the book was extremely character-centric and relatably human. In the end, this is just a story about a woman looking to make a true human connection to another person.
If you normally like lit-fic, definitely check this out. And even if you normally don’t, it still might be worth a look.