Why Ayobami Adebayo’s STAY WITH ME is So Powerful and Relevant
Our new Igloo Book Buzz selection is Ayobami Adebayo’s debut novel STAY WITH ME, published by Knopf today. The title was an Editors Book Buzz pick at Book Expo 2017 and enthusiastically presented by Jennifer Jackson, Senior Editor, Knopf Doubleday. “Within ten pages of reading STAY WITH ME I knew I was in the hands of an exceptional storyteller,” said Ms. Jackson. “The voice is so powerful. Comparisons to Chimamanda Adichi and Chinua Achebe feel nearly blasphemous in their audacity, but it’s impossible not to think of these great Nigerian writers when reading Ayobami’s work. And even though STAY WITH ME is set mostly in 1980s Lagos, it feels devastatingly relevant in its examination of the personal and the political, the pressure a society exerts over women’s bodies and their fertility. Like the very best fiction, STAY WITH ME takes us to a different time and place and shows us ourselves more clearly along the way.”
When asked if a particular incident inspired the writing of her novel, Ms. Adebayo revealed, “When I was in my late teens, a couple of friends passed away suddenly. This was quite distressing but after a while, as tends to happen when one is once or twice removed from grief, I stopped thinking about them all the time. Still, whenever I saw their mothers, I was moved by how they’d become physically transformed by what had happened to their children. I wondered how they found the strength to get out of bed every day after such a devastating loss, and questioned why these women were expected, after a period of mourning, to continue life as normal. In 2008, a few days after an encounter with one of them, I wrote a short story that would later morph into STAY WITH ME.”
The author added, “I’m so happy that STAY WITH ME found a home at Knopf. It’s wonderful to be part of such a prestigious list and I’m delighted with the care and enthusiasm with which the wonderful Knopf team is publishing it.”
In STAY WITH ME, Yejide and Akin have been married since they met and fell in love at university. Though many expected Akin to take several wives, he and Yejide have always agreed: polygamy is not for them. But four years into their marriage–after consulting fertility doctors and healers, trying strange teas and unlikely cures–Yejide is still not pregnant. She assumes she still has time–until her family arrives on her doorstep with a young woman they introduce as Akin’s second wife. Furious, shocked, and livid with jealousy, Yejide knows the only way to save her marriage is to get pregnant. Which, finally, she does–but at a cost far greater than she could have dared to imagine. An electrifying novel of enormous emotional power, STAY WITH ME asks how much we can sacrifice for the sake of family.