Book – Stay With Me – a Novel
Author – Ayobami Adebayo
Setting – Ilesa, State of Osun, 1980’s – 2008
Publisher – Canongate Books
Genre – Literature/Fiction
Review by Lebohang Mashiloane
I throughly enjoyed Stay With Me from cover to cover.
From chapter one, the book made me question why a women’s worth is measured by the ability to conceive in the Yoruba culture and many African cultures.
Stay with me, like the title, the book will stay with me forever. The childless protagonist, Yijide who met her husband Akin in university has trouble conceiving.
Her flat tummy makes her in laws uneasy. Her mother in law moomi, makes her husband take a second wife, Funmi who will bare him children.
Desperate to concieve, Yijide goes to consult with prophet Josiah on a mountain, with a goat she has to carry single handedly she has to get up the mountain with no blemishes. At the peak of the mountain, she is welcomed by a group of bearded men in ropes.
‘There are things even love can’t do . . . If the burden is too much and stays too long, even love bends, cracks, comes close to breaking and sometimes does break. But even when it’s in a thousand pieces around your feet, that doesn’t mean it’s no longer love . . .’Voice of Yejide, hoping for a miracle child.
She is instructed to dance with the goat while cuddling it like a baby, when the prophet instructs her to to breast feed the goat, she visualizes it as a baby while beast feeding it. She then begins a year long psychosomatic pregnancy, Akin convinces her to see a psychiatrist.
Her husband’s brother, Dontun seduces her and….she discovers she’s pregnant.
Ecstatic about the birth of her new born baby, Olamide. She and her husband have a huge naming ceremony for Olamide who bares twenty other names. Olamide dies only a few months after her birth but Yijide is already pregnant with her second child, Sesan.
Sesan is diagnosed with Sickle disease, after his diagnosis the Doctor at Wesley Guild Hospital tells Akin that he is not, Sesan’s father. He is not surprised. Sesan however succumbs to the sickle disease and dies.
Dontun lost his job in Lagos after being a fraud accomplice in his firm, he moves in with his brother and his wife. He breaks news to yijide about Akin’s infertility, livid about her husbands secrets and betrayal, she stages for her husband to walk in on her and his brother having sex. Akin looses his temper and assaults his brother. Dontun moves to Australia.
Yejide gives birth to her third child, Rotimi. A Yoruba name, Stay with me – translated in English. Rotimi is unfortunate, Yijide does not want to bond with her as she fears the worst will happen because of the Sickle disease. Akin with Rotimi, visit Lagos to see his urologist but protests break out because of the election results that are being withheld from the public. Rotimi looses her consciousness.
Akin calls Yijide to tell her about, Rotimi’s condition. She tells Akin she will not be coming back to him. She concludes that Rotimi is dead. She goes back to Ilesa when Akin invites her to his father’s funeral. At the funeral she is anxious, she has been wanting to come back to Ilesa to ask questions about the child she did not mourn, the child she did not tell folk tales, the child she begged to stay alive every time she called her name, Rotimi.
She is perplexed when she sees a younger version of her at the funeral, the younger version of her is Rotimi the child she thought was dead, who demands she be called, Timi. The child she begged to stay alive did stay alive but she did not stay to watch her grow.
If you have read or about to read this novel you will also enjoy The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin.
Get the book, search the ISBN:9781101974414