“Stay With Me” starts out strong. Yejide and Akin are Nigerian, young, in love and newly married. There is an immense amount of family pressure on them to have a child but Yejide is unable to get pregnant. She even goes so far as to climb the Mountain of Jaw-Dropping Miracles, where she is part of a ceremony with a goat and is guaranteed she will become pregnant.
Both families constantly interfere. At one point, Yejide even talks herself into being pregnant. But after 4 years of marriage and no baby Akin does the unthinkable, and takes a second wife. “I was barren and my husband took another wife.” Things go rapidly downhill from there – both in the marriage and in the quality of the novel.
Yejide runs a beauty salon and Akin is a successful banker and they are financially successful. Yejide does ultimately become pregnant, three times, but there are significant costs associated with those pregnancies. The book is told in part from Yejide’s perspective and in part from Akin’s perspective. After all is said and done, both Akin and Yejide question the sacrifices they made in order to have children. “I no longer believed that having a child was equal to owning the world.”
The novel devolves into a horror story. The characters are miserable, their deceptions are diabolical and everyone (especially the reader) suffers. Throughout the novel there are interesting interludes about the political climate in Nigeria, but these interludes are simply not enough to offset the misery of the story and the torment that is the characters’ lives. The novel was short listed for the Bailey’s Prize, so obviously not everyone agrees with me. On the plus side, the novel is blessedly short. You can reserve the book at the Cuyahoga County Public Library by clicking on http://encore.cuyahoga.lib.oh.us/iii/encore/record/C__Rb11263154__Sstay%20with%20me__P0%2C2__Orightresult__X7?lang=eng&suite=gold