What you need to know:
- Yejide, who at first makes the impression of being all things girl power, now bows to pressure from her in laws to produce a child.
- Desperate to get pregnant and save her marriage, she resorts to bizarre measures that take quite a toll on her.
- She is no longer the confident woman Akin fell in love with.
For most book enthusiasts, nothing beats curling up on a cosy coach under a fluffy blanket with a good book in your hand, particularly during this cold season.
Oh, and a cup of something hot on the side perhaps tea or coffee?
Allow me to indulge you in a recap of one of my recent reading escapades:
Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀’s debut novel, Stay with me, is a portrait of a modern marriage still beholden to culture, tradition, attachment traumas and well… toxic masculinity.
Beliefs that haunt
The protagonists Yejide and Akin are a young couple deeply in love and with the possibility of a fruitful forever after. They are educated, free spirited and in every sense, woke. However, four years into marriage, their blissful bubble is popped by childlessness.
Isn’t it interesting how cultural beliefs and expectations always hunt has down, seep into our lives and turn everything around?
Yejide, who at first makes the impression of being all things girl power, now bows to pressure from her in laws to produce a child. Desperate to get pregnant and save her marriage, she resorts to bizarre measures that take quite a toll on her. She is no longer the confident woman Akin fell in love with. Instead, she becomes a puppet pulled this way and that way by the whims of anyone who promises to help her get bear a child.
Akin isn’t spared either, and he finds himself in a second marriage. One that will hopefully restore his dignity as a man. However, this move calculated by well-meaning in-laws only takes this couple from the pan and right into the fire.
The betrayal of letting in an outsider into their weather-beaten love nest drives them further and further apart. They become strangers to one another. That is a familiar script right?
Burden of fear
The fear that grips this couple is palpable throughout the story. There is fear of never being able to meet each other’s expectations, the fear of sealing each other to the undesirable fate of unmet dreams.
Anger and disappointment fuels these fears not to mention the meddling from ‘friends’ and relatives.
The reader will be prompted to reflect on his or her experience with fear. That’s quite relatable during this precarious time as the world fights the corona virus pandemic. The feeling of helplessness as you watch things go wrong and you are unable to save the situation.
Fear robs this power couple of their love, dreams, intimacy, trust and more than can be expressed in words.
How many things has fear taken from you? How many paths has it led you down? These are questions you’ll obsess over with every turned page.
Hurt people hurt others
The author is deliberate on impacting life lessons. For instance, a flashback of Yejide’s past illuminates the importance of allowing past wounds to heal and lay down our crosses lest they wreak irreversible havoc in our lives and the lives of those, we value most.
Akin takes out the frustrations of not being able to fulfil his responsibility as the first son and bear children on his vulnerable wife. He is so dedicated to the appearance of virility and ends up paying heavily by hurting the people closest to him; his wife, his second wife, and his family.
A study co-authored by a Michigan State University sociologist actually suggests that men who endorse hegemonic ideals of masculinity -- or "toxic masculinity" -- can become socially isolated as they age, impacting their health, well-being, and overall happiness. It is true in this case, because Akin authors and sustains his unhappiness.
The story is fast paced, each twist and turn feeling like a punch in the gut. Like most African stories I have read, sneaky humour will catch you off-guard as you sniff back sad tears—such an emotional roller-coaster. Grab this book for your next read and a box of tissues because your tear glands will go into overdrive!