Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo | Book Review (spoiler-free)

Hey I’m Elena, this is elenathegreat.
And today I want to talk all about Stay
With Me
by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀. I read this book
with Lily from Lily Eleanor Reads like a
month or so ago and we both
really ended up enjoying it. And it kind
of made the rounds of booktube
back in 2017 when it came out because it
was shortlisted for the women’s prize,
but since then I haven’t really
seen anyone talk about it, and I know a
lot of people didn’t even know it
existed. So I wanted to make a full review
video on it, because I think if you’re
someone who doesn’t usually read adult
literary fiction, this is a very
engaging and readable book, I think
regardless of the kind of genre that you
prefer,
and so I figured it would be a good
recommendation for anyone really.
This video is going to be non-spoiler.
I’m also going to link some interviews
with the author in the description,
because when Lily and I were reading
this
we found that a couple interviews in
particular with the author really
heightened our reading experience and
made us appreciate this book a lot more.
Now this book is told in two timelines:
we have a 2008 timeline and then we have
a timeline set in the 1980s. Both
timelines take place in Nigeria. There
are obviously some things
in this book that I can’t necessarily
talk about because I’m not Nigerian,
so I’ve seen a couple Nigerian
booktubers actually talk about this book
and have review videos on this book that
I’ll link in the description.
Most of this book takes place in the
1980s. It’s apparent at the beginning of
this book that Yejide
and Akin, a young Nigerian couple, are
having a lot of trouble
conceiving a child. And this book is
mostly told through Yejide POV,
though we do get some chapters from Akin.
They love each other though, up to this
point they’ve had a relatively great
marriage.
However, their relatives are extremely
nosy
in their personal lives, and Akin’s
family in particular is putting a lot of
pressure on
Yejide and Akin to have a child. So Akin
goes behind Yejide’s back and takes
on a second
wife. Problem is, he and Yejide agreed
when they were in university that they
would not have a polygamous marriage. And
so this is a huge betrayal for her.
That synopsis makes it sound like this
book is going to be about Yejide and
Akin’s marriage
and the consequences of him taking on a
second wife…
and it kind of is … but it also isn’t. This
book then
unfolds in a way that you would not have
expected based on what I just said. And
it unfolded in a way that I did not see
coming. So yes, Akin taking on the second
wife
is the inciting incident in this story,
but
it’s not the driving factor of the plot.
There’s a lot more at play.
There are twists and turns in like every
single chapter. And I mentioned this in
my recent reads video on this book, but
it’s kind of like an
ode to the thriller genre in how they
were incorporated.
Now something that really stood out to
me in the story was intention down to
the tiny details.
Things like Yejide’s name even were
really significant in this story.
Her name means “image of her mother,” and
it’s a name that’s commonly
given to children who lose a parental or
mother figure in their childhood.
Yejide’s mom
died during childbirth. It’s a name that
she carries with her and people who meet
her
immediately know based on her name this
very important part of her life
experience. It’s like literally
written into her life how people view
her because of her name.
Motherhood is such a strong theme in
this book as well, and I think the
importance of that theme
is increased with these tiny details in
how Yejide lives her life
in having this name. But you get a
strong sense in here of what
parenthood means to the parent, but also
what it means to the child.
Yejide grew up in a polygamous
household, so even though
her mother died during childbirth, she
had a lot of mother-like figures in her
life. At the same time though, the way
that she carries her name with her, it’s
like she’s carrying this burden of guilt
throughout the book, because she
associates her mother’s death with
herself … so there is this kind of burden
that she has
in how she views herself and her
relationship with her mother.
And then how she views her own ideals of
motherhood kind of translated in this
way. I’ll read a quote that I liked that
I think
puts this well. “My mother had become an
obsession for me, a religion. And the very
thought of referring to another
woman as mother seemed sacrilegious, a
betrayal of the woman who had given up
her life
for me to live.” I just think it was so
interesting how
even things like names and the way that
the character’s upbringings really
influenced the rest of the story was
incorporated here.
And I found out a lot of this
information from those interviews with
her, which is why
I found this reading experience to be
really fruitful. And on this topic of
motherhood,
there is this theme throughout of
legitimacy and that Yejide sees her
legitimacy
as a wife and as a woman tied to her
ability to become a mother…
this book seems to be an exploration of
the anguish
and grief that that expectation of
motherhood or parenthood more generally
has on people …. and tying in with that,
what does
sacrifice mean when it comes to
parenthood. Yejide’s distress over not
being able to have a child
isn’t necessarily tied to the fact that
she really really wants a child. I mean,
she does, but her emotional state is
mostly because of her own expectations
when it comes to her own history with
parenthood
and her name and all of that. I talked
about this a little bit before, but the
nature of twists and turns in this book
really had me thinking a lot about fate
and how we handle change. There are some
hints and build up before every twist,
but not really a lot, and it comes very
close to each twist…
where I felt like it was realistic in
the sense, that when we do
experience unexpected things in our
lives, there
usually isn’t a lot of build up. And so
you kind of just have to roll with the
punches.
It felt very realistic in thar the shocks
in this book
were things that were so unexpected and
so
out there, that the way that the
characters had to deal with them was so
human. Because we experience change the
same way that they do.
Then there’s the idea of fate. Like I
said before, because in this book we have
traditional
tales and myths interspersed, it’s
interesting to see some of these stories
that Yejide thinks about with such a set
structure
contrast with her own life, which is so
twisty and turny. And because we’re
seeing part of the 2008 timeline, which is Yejide in the future, we’re
also kind of seeing her reflect on the
past. And so it’s this weird fate kind of
relationship, because
what has happened has already happened.
She’s thinking about it back from the
future.
So I think it is really interesting when
that
is played with the myths that are in the
story, which are just these like set
tales that have a set structure, and
you know, we already know that this story
has happened because she’s looking at it
from the future, so there is kind of a
set structure there,
even though it is so unexpected. And then
there’s the history that’s told in here.
The author intersperses a lot of
political events from 1980s Nigeria
in order to tell time. I’m looking at my
notes here but for example on page 25
there’s a coup,
on page 139 there’s another coup, and it
seems
tangential to the plot of the book for
most of the book,
because it is kind of this subplot of
historical events that are happening in
Nigeria.
But then there are moments in the plot
where the political
situations that are happening have real
consequences
on the lives of the characters. And it
felt kind of real in the sense that
sometimes you look at big political
events that are happening around you, and
you don’t necessarily think about how
those things affect you on a daily basis,
but there are times when significant
events do
have a lot of influence in ways that are
unexpected. The author has talked a
little bit in interviews about why
she added politics here, but she really
wanted to examine
what this period of change in Nigeria
would have been
like for kind of everyday people like
Yejide and Akin, who are not involved in
politics but are just living their daily
lives. Because the 1980s was a very big
time of political change in Nigeria.
Another interesting thought: this book
explores grief in a really complex way.
Grief and isolation, how people cope when
they’re trying to minimize their own
grief,
and also the need to feel loved, the need
to not feel lonely.
And lastly, I would like to say that the
character work in here
was just impeccable. They’re not really
written as characters for you to like,
per se,
but they felt so human. Icould feel
Yejide’s emotions very deeply in here.
Anyway, I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars.
I thought it was really well
done….obviously because I made a whole
video on it. It’s definitely had a
lasting impression on my memory.
Let me know if you’ve read this book, let
me know if you want to read this book.
And if you’re gonna
talk about spoilers in the comments,
please put “spoilers” at the beginning of
your comment so that you can warn people
not to read it who haven’t read this
book yet. And that’s all I have for
today’s video, thank you so much for
watching and bye!!

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