What happens when a woman is so desperate to get pregnant that she breastfeeds a goat? Described as “ultimately lovely” by esteemed novelist Margaret Atwood and shortlisted for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, Stay With Me is the 2017 debut by Nigerian writer Ayobami Adebayo.
Lagos-born Adebayo’s writing has been featured in magazines and anthologies, including the 2009 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.
Set in Nigeria, we follow the protagonist Yejide and her husband Akin, as they try and try and try to start a family. Yejide follows medical advice, she also tries more traditional methods, but to no avail, and obviously, what is a woman, successful or not, without child? When Yejide finally appears to be pregnant, it is not at all what it seems, though I can reveal that she goes on to have three children, but at what cost?
Adebayo takes her narrative to places you cannot imagine, it was only as I read the final chapters that earlier occurrences I’d overlooked in the novel finally made sense. She manages to write a beautiful yet sad tale, whilst highlighting some very topical and important issues. More often than not, the weight of bearing children, is placed on the woman. Before conceiving, both Yejide’s family and in laws assumed the fault lay with her, and then when she did have children, the complications that ensued was again the fault of Yejide, and Yejide only. It is a heart breaking but true reflection of patriarchal societies, and a story that is still sadly relevant in many areas of the world.
Stay With Me was definitely worthy the Bailey’s nod. Adebayo is a talented and vibrant writer, who will make her mark on literature in Nigeria and across the globe, I am sure. Add it to your list of books by black authors to check out!