Book Review: Stay With Me

Book title: Stay With Me

Author: Ayòbámi Adébáyò

Publisher: Ouida Books (Nigeria)

Other Publishers: Canongate (UK), Knopf Double Day Publishing Group (US)

Book type: (semi hard) Paperback (also available on Amazon)

Genre: Fiction

I find it interesting that a lot of the authors whose narratives I’ve been reading recently, seem to be quite concise in their use of metaphors. This one is no different. This author doesn’t try to be fancy in her use of descriptives, not for a lack of capacity, as we would see her capture certain thought strings like, ‘I kissed him to swallow that word “OK”. To catch it from his lips and tuck it safely inside me…’ But, as her style. Nothing more. I assume.

The minimalist, yet unique, seafoam-green coloured cover design caught my attention from the shelf on which it laid, when I was looking around in Cassava Republic bookshop, Abuja. Half of an Ankara dress is shown on the front cover and the other half, on the back cover. This made for a chic look. The colour combination was simply brilliant. Holding the matte finished, semi hard, paperback cover just screamed, ‘buy me!’ No, more specifically, when I held the book, it whispered, Stay With Me. I say the cover is semi hard because it’s not as soft as the paperbacks I’m used to and has an inside flap as though it were a jacket design. Lovely all the same.

Yejide locks eyes with Akin, one night, after coming out of the cinema, while in the university and he walks up to profess his love for her. She’s sceptical about his motives because of the other woman she saw him with. But, he assures her, that he’s not one for polygamy. Eventually, they get married and they have trouble bearing children. Things take a strenuous turn when Akin’s mum butts in with unsolicited counsel, forcing Yejide to visit Prophet Josiah on a ‘mountain of jaw-dropping miracles’. The bizzare rituals she carries out is soon smothered by the joy of her pregnancy. Yet, tests with doctors kept giving contrary results.

While she tries to prove her pregnancy to the world, the machinations of his mother’s advice already forces Akin to consider having Funmi, as his second wife. Things quickly take a different twist when, Dotun, Akin’s brother shows up with his own family and financial problems, all the while, compounding this family’s existing dilemma.

The main story was set in the 80’s, even though, I didn’t find much use for it. There were references to Nigeria’s military regime, then, and their reluctance to hand over power to a civilian government; the Orkar Coup and the curfews that were enforced at that time, hindering Akin to take Dotun’s child to the hospital at one point. The story could have well been transplanted into another timeline and still, the essence wouldn’t have been lost.

The book is divided into four parts, with the beginning of each part, showing the continuation of the main characters’ lives from 2008 and onwards. Having had the events narrated by Yejide and Akin’s perspectives, I found myself a little bit confused at certain portions, especially with the shallow use of subdivisions within chapters. Then, some cheap lies that were sold made the main female characters appear unduly gullible. The plots, however, takes your attention away from it.

There was a stunning simplicity with which the story was relayed. A bit like two friends taking a leisure stroll, telling each other their experiences without going into unnecessary details. Casual, yet intimate. I must admit, this simplicity had me fooled, for I got to the middle of the book and thought, there’s nothing more here. Boy did I speak too soon! I saw the plot expand and the intrigue, heighten. The brevity of the narrative took away undue drama from intense scenes of the story. A bit like how I remember my phlegmatic friends relaying their experiences. It made me love it more.

Time seemed to be warped in this author’s writing style. You don’t seem to notice people ageing or governments toppling. You just notice that someone was here, and now they’re there. Simple!

Stay With Me can be purchased from Cassava Republic bookshop at shop 62B, Arts and Craft Village, Opposite Sheraton Hotel building, Abuja, for N3000 (as at December, 2017). You can order online from Amazon. It’s still disappointing that you can’t get it on Nigeria’s biggest online retail platforms like Jumia and Konga. Noteworthy, is the fact that this book was also published by two other presses; one in the UK and the other, in the US and is forthcoming in at least 12 other countries.

I hope you get yourself a copy. It’s a lovely read.

Until the next review, I remain,

Yours with a Quill!

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