Hello dear readers. We’re in the second week of the #WinterABC22 storytelling festival; I hope I see this challenge to the end. This week the theme is STORIES OF AFRICA, and today in particular I’m going off tangent on the partnered topic by the African Writers’ Trust with my the prompt “The first book that introduced you to African Literature”
I don’t really remember the first book that I read, but I do remember my favorite book thus far. Right now, I feel like that kid who studies for an exam, but the topics they have studied do not appear anywhere in the paper, and they resort to using the blank pages to write on the things that they know.
I have read this book four times and counting. Each time, it rocks my feelings. Each time feels like the first time. The story is new, I read into things I didn’t realize the last time I read it. And yes, currently I’m reading it all over again. It’s the total package, from the main characters, to the relationships explored by Ayobami, culture dynamics and the unfolding of the story as a whole. Man this book owns my heart.
The novel explores a plethora of themes, among them love, culture, relationships and most central to the story; infertility. We get an insight from both the main characters Yejide and Akinyele who are married and struggling with conception in their marriage. I think one of the things that make the story stand out is that both the main characters tell their side of the story. It leaves you somehow torn between both sides of the story.
A quick review;
The story starts with Yejide packing and preparing to go to Akin’s father’s funeral. From the go, it’s clear that the novel is set to rock your emotions. We go back and forth, between the present and the past, with both Yejide and Akin recounting the events of their marriage and the many events there in. Yejide is struggling to conceive, and her step mother together with some of Akins relations show up with a second wife for Akin. All these are efforts to ensure that Akin has descendants, and the underlying assumption was that Yejide was barren, and therefore the reason why the union had lasted four years without a child. Through out Yejide seeks all the remedies she can, just so that she can birth a child as Funmi existed as a threat to her “happy marriage” with Akin. She climbed every mountain, performed every fasting and consulted every prophet as to why her womb won’t open. Through this search for answers, she ended up on Mountain of Jaw-Dropping Miracles, where after she finally got pregnant. However, Akin insists that she was not pregnant (the first burgundy flag). In the end it turns out that she had had pseudocyesis
Akin eventually asked his brother Dotun to sleep with his wife for him, once, just so that him and Yejide can have a child. Yejide enjoyed the sex with Dotun. When she and Akin got married she was a virgin, Akin told her that some penises get hard and some don’t and she never got to ask anyone. As such, she never got to know, until a later stage that he was the one who could not bear children, all while he underwent several treatments for his condition ( I think he was the villain of the story) Funmi was at the center of a lot of controversy, and she knew about Akins condition, he ended up killing her accidentally one night when he was drunk and she had confronted him. Anyways, back to Dotun and Yejide. Dotun did the job, a sharp shooter and Yejide falls pregnant. They finally had a baby, who eventually dies because both of them were carriers of the sickle cell disease. It happened again, and she fell pregnant once again and birthed a child with the same condition. Both her children die on her, with the third pregnancy she is far removed from everything and is afraid one day her child would die, as the other two did. Somewhere in between all this chaos, it comes to light what Akin and Dotun had planned, Yejide was furious, we all know how the story unfolds. Yejide eventually left Akin with their daughter Rotimi (meaning Stay With Me) and as Yejide prepared to go to the funeral, she wondered what had become of their daughter.
There were many issues at play within the novel, all evoking different difficult emotions. I loved the emotional rollercoaster Stay With Me took me on. From feeling sorry for Yejide, hoping for the best for her, adoring her and Akin and then piecing the story together. Ayobami explored the conflict that results from infertility in a marriage, how everyone undoubtedly thinks it’s the woman at fault. Yejide gets to navigate this reality as a result of Akin’s dishonesty. He formulates plans and explanations even for Yejide all in a effort to cover up his infertility problems. The story is real, it feels real, these are things we are not too far removed from as a result of partly homogeneous cultural beliefs and behaviors. It’s all things we have seen or heard, and Adebayo brings them to life in her book.
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 loveStay With Me, Ayobami Adebayo
Akin gets the opportunity to tell his side of the story, how things unfolded in his perspective, the actions he took and personal justifications. From the look of things, he loved Yejide dearly. From the instant he saw her, he knew he would marry her, but the things that he does bring his love for Yejide into question. What is love without honesty? He sees Yejide struggling time and again, trying to find answers to the question of why she can’t bear children the whole while he is the answer. How then, does he claim to love her dearly when he isn’t up front with her and leaves her to drink every concoction, visit every prophet, do the unthinkable all in an effort to get pregnant. It is also increasing clear that love alone is not enough.
I enjoyed writing this review and reflection. Now, I get to continue reading Stay With Me, for the fourth or fifth time now.