Stay with Me

The first novel by Nigerian author Ayobami Adebayo, Stay with Me, follows the disintegration of a marriage in the face of abuse, infidelity and heartbreak. A telling indictment of the lies people agree to in order to survive, the book finds complexity in its characters as they attempt to destroy each other emotionally.

Taking place in Nigeria from the '80s until 2008, Stay with Me focuses on Akin and Yejide as they attempt to conceive a child. Told in alternating chapters from their points of view, the book relies heavily on concealed facts and plot twists. Akin, despite his proclaimed love for Yejide, is a controlling, abusive husband who constantly creates intense anguish and conflict for her, beginning by taking a second wife (a common custom in Nigeria at that time). Yejide is unable, or unwilling, to see Akin for what he is, and becomes manic, scrambling to get pregnant before this new woman does. Escalations upon escalations abound, until political and personal violence rip the marriage apart.

Readers might hope Stay with Me would be about Yejide's road to empowerment, but Adebayo has a much darker tale to tell. Akin's treatment of his wife is deplorable, but neither he nor Yejide seem to understand just how far his abuse goes. Stay with Me looks into the dark heart of a marriage, and shows how remaining committed sometimes means doing away with reality altogether. It's an impressive first book from an author who clearly has her sights on depicting human depravity. --Noah Cruickshank, adult engagement manager, the Field Museum, Chicago, Ill.

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