Love and heartbreak? Politics and the pendulum-like political ambience? Or the exhumation of the concept of Abiku mythology? Which of these can we precisely mention as the concern of this novel? In my subjective opinion, Adebayo’s Stay with me is a perfect blend of all these pre-occupations. Published in 2017 by Canongate Books Ltd in Britain, the book unfurls a long rope of tale that has thematic nodes of love, betrayal, polygamy, politics and marriage, focusing on the main characters of Yejide and her husband, Akin.
When Yejide marries to Akin, of course, like any other marriage, the belief is that things will be blissful. Isn’t conjugal bliss the wish that proceeds from every mouth? But the challenge rises and the only reason that Akin’s mother calls her daughter-in-law a witch is because she has not given birth to a child. Consequently,the couple become serious about matters that the parents and relatives perceive as pertaining to their lives. There comes the need for test after test and being cynic about the efficacy of one doctor and going to another. The wife, who earlier didn’t believe so much in seeking spiritual means to solving problem has been compelled to go to the mountain and pray and perform some rituals that involve breastfeeding a goat.
Of course she becomes pregnant but the doctor sees nothing. She is delusional and the husband, Akin, becomes afraid that his wife has gone mad. Yejide, on her own part ignores him and the child, the true certificate that will certify and sustain their marriage becomes her only hope.
Later, Dotun comes because he has been deported from the US, and in Lagos, he has lost his job. True, he needs to clear his head. Not long after, Yejide becomes pregnant again and a child is given birth to. The child is discovered to be of the sickle cell anaemia and efforts to keep this handsome and much-laboured-for child to live emerges, it becomes a race, a fierce one. But does this diseased certificate certify their marriage as thought?
No one is truly impeccable. Akin is quite a weak hero who makes a rash decision because of the desperate need to get a child. The decision actually breaks his home and his reason. But even if a house is demolished, can’t it be rebuilt to build a more beautiful one? The reason I love this brilliant story is not only because of the fluidly woven plot, that is, a narration of love, politics, death and polygamy, but also, it gives us the waves of lives and marriages not as a rising sea that you stay by the beach and watch but as a life experienced by some people with blood, oxygen, water and voices. It radiates with exceptional brilliance and the plot resonates in my mind.
The book is narrated in multiple voices. A voice that belongs to the author and the other two voices that belong to the main characters: Yejide and Akin. The masculinity in the male’s voice is concrete just as that of the female voice. Although some of the dialogues are written in dialects, this does not impede the message of the story.
Actually, Adebayo lacks something in her writing, that is, the ability to write a tasteless sentence. Every word in the story has its spectacle, its taste and flavour. Could you ever remain an emotional rock after reading Stay with me? The plot will stay with you forever, I bet. All in all, it’s a book I will recommend.