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Ashley Riggleson

Any voracious reader can tell you that certain novels have a greater impact than others and some, like Ayobami Adebayo’s début novel, “Stay with Me,” are utterly transformative.

The story of Yejide and Akin’s marriage is both panoramic and intimate. They met during their university days in Nigeria and quickly fell in love. Soon, they were married, but after four years, they have not had any children. Their relatives soon orchestrate a second marriage for Akin, hoping that this new woman Funmi, will be able to succeed where Yejide has failed. Yejide, who has always maintained that she would not be party to polygamy, soon finds herself enmeshed in an unhappy competition to maintain her place in the household where, she believes she has found a true family for the first time. Yejide decides she must get pregnant at any cost.

Unlike many novels, “Stay with Me” also gives voice to Akin, who is in love with Yejide and resents Funmi for disrupting their lives. While Akin’s love for Yejide does not waver, he has a secret, and his greatest fear is that she will discover it and leave him forever.

As the novel progresses, Adebayo takes readers to the hidden corners of marriage they themselves would not want to visit and, she unflinchingly lays bare the many secrets, hardships, and heartbreaks of this union over many years. The revelations are explosive, but Adebayo tells a ...

Any voracious reader can tell you that certain novels have a greater impact than others and some, like Ayobami Adebayo’s début novel, “Stay with Me,” are utterly transformative.

The story of Yejide and Akin’s marriage is both panoramic and intimate. They met during their university days in Nigeria and quickly fell in love. Soon, they were married, but after four years, they have not had any children. Their relatives soon orchestrate a second marriage for Akin, hoping that this new woman Funmi, will be able to succeed where Yejide has failed. Yejide, who has always maintained that she would not be party to polygamy, soon finds herself enmeshed in an unhappy competition to maintain her place in the household where, she believes she has found a true family for the first time. Yejide decides she must get pregnant at any cost.

Unlike many novels, “Stay with Me” also gives voice to Akin, who is in love with Yejide and resents Funmi for disrupting their lives. While Akin’s love for Yejide does not waver, he has a secret, and his greatest fear is that she will discover it and leave him forever.

As the novel progresses, Adebayo takes readers to the hidden corners of marriage they themselves would not want to visit and, she unflinchingly lays bare the many secrets, hardships, and heartbreaks of this union over many years. The revelations are explosive, but Adebayo tells all with such clarity and precision that readers will be entirely enthralled. At the same time, “Stay with Me” manages to bring to life the sociopolitical climate in which it is set, and while Adebayo largely keeps Nigerian politics on the margins of this narrative, the state of the marriage becomes intertwined with the state of the nation. It is truly astounding that Adebayo, a debut novelist, manages to explore both with such depth, and it is not too big a claim to say that Adebayo does for this marriage what Elena Ferrante did for female friendship in the “Neoolitan Novels.” With an ending that has the capacity to break your heart and put it together again, Ayobami Adebayo gives us a novel that reminds us a mother’s love will forever endure.

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