JTO Book Club: Stay With Me

Words by Temi Otedola

Original Thumbnail Art by Antonia Weishaupt

 

The JTO Book Club is back for its March edition! If it’s your first time reading a Book Club post you can catch up here:

January 2019 Edition:  Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (here)

February 2019 Edition: Homegoing by Yaa Gyaasi (here)

March 2019 Edition: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (here)

 

Welcome to the April edition of the JTO Book Club! If you are new to this series, thank you for joining, the JTO Book Club is a monthly blog post on jtofashion.com where we as a community read and then analyse a chosen book that has been voted by you (the followers) via Instagram.

The JTO Book Club has so far been an amazing journey and one that I feel so privileged to be able to share with you all. I sincerely appreciate every single comment that is left on the book club posts, it’s fantastic that we have the chance to share and discuss our mutual love of literature – in saying this please do take the time to leave a comment below, relating to this book or others that you have loved and would like to recommend to the rest of us.

 
Judging A Book By Its Cover…

(This section documents my conjectures of the book or author prior to reading; I will also include any background information I deem beneficial for you to know before my personal analysis)

Stay With Me had been recommended by the JTO Book Club multiple times and so I mustered it to be a popularly enjoyed read. I was really excited when I saw the authors’ name, Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀, and realised this was a novel by a contemporary Nigerian female author who will have a voice and nuance of writing that I might personally relate to. Furthermore, the book’s cover was illustrated with the profile of a woman, so I was equally excited that the book’s protagonist might be a Nigerian woman. The title, Stay With Me, seemed to reveal that it would be a novel surrounding a relationship of some sort, however, the particular relationship, the setting and time frame remained a mystery.

 

Stay With Me…

Stay With Me follows the life and marriage of Yejide and Akin set across 1980s Nigeria. We meet Yejide and Akin as a young couple, deeply in love, equally caring, and monogamous. There’s just one thing missing, they have not been able to have a child. As usual, society points to the wife, in this case, Yejide, to be the blame. She is constantly asked, shamed and pressured by the fact she is yet to conceive a few years into her marriage. To appease his mother, Akin finally enters into a second marriage with Funmi, whose presence quickly pushes Yejide to her psychological edge. On her final tether, Yejide decides to visit a Prophet who has been said to help barren women become pregnant. Following her visit, Yejide immediately falls pregnant however; this pregnancy would never come to fruition. The real and irreversible trouble begins when Yejide sleeps with Akin’s troublesome little brother Dotun and to the surprise of us all… falls pregnant!

I saw Yejide and Dotun’s affair as a symptom of the issues surrounding her relationship with Akin, not the cause. A lack of communication, society’s upholding of hypermasculinity, and what it means to be a devoted wife, all led to dark secrets that piled so high until they unavoidably spilt into the light. We see Yejide suffer through the attested loss of two children and the tangible loss of one. By the time Yejide leaves Akin and escapes with the thought of a third part of her vanishing – we can’t blame or judge her actions, she is a woman entirely and thoroughly broken.

It’s astonishing to think that Stay With Me is Adébáyọ̀’s debut novel. Her ability to compose and curve prose is absolutely outstanding. Stay With Me was a delight to read. Adébáyọ̀ seamlessly wrote the book so that both Yejide and Akin could give first-hand accounts of events without the reader feeling the mediating effects of an author’s hand. Not only does Adébáyọ̀ hop between character perspectives she also jumps between time frames. The reader learns about Yejide and Akin’s university life, married life, and life apart in often simultaneous parts.

 

 

Adébáyọ̀ crafted beautifully imperfect characters. Stay With Me reminded me once again that we as readers do not need to sympathise or even like literary characters. Reading is supposed to transport us to different areas of mortal life and make us question what it truly means to be human, which evidentially does not always paint a pretty picture. I found myself questioning Akin in particular multiple times whilst reading. He battles between a hidden shames, a love for his wife and a rage with the decisions he has made. Yes, Akin committed some deeply horrific acts, but is that not what we as imperfect humans are capable of? Whilst he may have been capable of the evilest human act, murder, he is still a human being and so simultaneously capable of love, which leaves the reader feeling a little perplexed.

 

This study of the darkness and tragedy that can be experienced by seemingly ‘normal’ people made me appreciate realistic writing, not every book has to have heroic storytelling with moralising characters, sometimes we need to see society as it stands mirrored back at us.

 

 

Loss and grief at the level that Yejide experienced are impossible to recount unless you have lived it, yet Adébáyọ̀’s powerful writing allows us to feel every emotion as she felt them. Yejide’s struggle with pregnancy and motherhood is the greatest tragedy of Stay With Me. Yejide becomes a shell of her former self, pushed to insanity and desperation due to the societal pressure and her own personal longing for a child. Then when she finally falls pregnant she has to live through the greatest thing in her life being taken from her. Yes, a mother’s all-encompassing love is demonstrated in this book, but so is the overwhelming nature of motherhood, the exhaustion and defeat. After losing two children in infancy, going through naming ceremony’s, nursing them from her birth, and having them tied to her back all day, Yejide becomes afraid to love so the pain of another inevitable loss does not hit so hard. With her third child, Rotimi, Yejide is withdrawn, cold and clearly keeping an emotional distance. The fact that Rotimi is the child that fights death into infancy is even more heart-breaking in that Yejide was ready to give up, thinking that Rotimi had died.

 

Although Yejide and Rotimi are reunited in the final chapters of the book, I kept on thinking of the time lost, the time spent only with her father, did Rotimi even know how much Yejide had yearned for a daughter? The twists in Stay With Me are cutting. The readers see betrayal, the depths of grief, and shame, and yet the story is cuttingly believable. I had the feeling that although their lives were incredibly tragic at times, a couple like Yejide and Akin could be a family friend, a neighbour or even an acquaintance. Reminding us how complex and emotive human life can be.

 

 

Go ahead and share your thoughts, we’re all listening.

 

Temi’s Takeaway Quote:

“Before you call the snail a weakling, tie your house to your back and carry it around for a week” 

― Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀, Stay With Me

For all JTO Book Club updates check out the designated “highlight” on my Instagram page (here).

 

 

G  I  V  E  A  W  A  Y

Follow the below steps to win a copy of Stay With Me:

– Follow @jtofashion on Instagram (here).

– Like my latest Instagram photo.

– Comment below on this blog post stating: your thoughts on Stay With Me or what your favourite book is and why…

– Send me a DM stating that you have finished the following steps.

– I will post an Instagram Photo tagging the 3 winners so keep an eye out!

 

For postal reasons, the books can only be sent to addresses within the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States.

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SHOWHIDE Comments (25)
    1. Hi Ife, It’s not stealing at all! I’m so so glad to hear that your love of books and sharing this with others has been reignited.

  1. Hi there! In all honesty, I was excited when I found out that the voting results favoured ‘Stay With Me’.
    I’d heard lots of good stuff about the book but had not laid my hands on it until recently. However, by the time I delved into reading, it was a like a rollercoaster ride for me. I got angry and sad and irritated at the characters. I could not even appreciate the storytelling which is entirely art. By the time I was done with the book, I enclosed myself in the bubble wrap that is, I cannot relate to such happenings and as such validated my dislike for the book.

    I went ahead to read reviews written by various people from different walks of life, both Nigerians living in Nigeria and the abroad. It opened up my eyes to see from a different perspective and your writing, beautiful as it always is has really illuminated my thinking such that I now understand, I can see.

    This is one major benefit I derive from reading. It opens up your mind and teaches empathy which is a paramount value needed for everyday living.

    Thank you Temi, for this platform. I Stan, real hard.

    I’m currently catching up on Pachinko which was last month’s read and also reading Becoming Nigerian by Elnathan John which is an awesome read so far.

    Love and light?✨

    1. Hi Ayotomiwa, thank you very much for your comment.

      This is what I love about reading and being able to share opinions – a single story can be seen and interpreted from different perspectives. Not everyone will love or relate to every book, but that’s the beauty of storytelling, how deeply personal it is.

      I hope you enjoy Pachinko and I have added Becoming Nigerian to the JTO Book Club recommendation list. <3

  2. The book seems like a thrilling read. Dotun the evil brother to Yejide’s husband Akin seems like an interesting character to watch. I can’t wait to lay my hands on this book. The plot twists are sickening. Even though you already gave us heartbreaking spoilers in your blog post. Lol.

    1. Hi Pascal!

      So sorry about the spoilers on this one, it was really hard not to go into specific detail when I wrote this post.

      I hope you still give it a read, it’s really worth it.

  3. My favorite book is “Americanah” by Chimmimanda Ngozi Adiche. I have read it so many times I’ve lost count. Ifemelu’s journey resonated with me because I also immigrated to America (from Ethiopia) as a teenager. I love Chimmimanda’s writing and how she presents us with strong unapologetic women characters.

    Also a little aside, I recently found your blog and just wanted to say you are doing a great job. I’m happy i found an African blogger with great fashion taste. Keep killing it, girl!

    1. Thank you Melat!

      ‘Americanah’ will absolutely be a JTO Book Club focus this year, it’s a stunning read.

  4. Hey Book Bestie! (Lol)

    Let me say, I’m so glad that this was your next selection, and is a great follow up from the deep but riveting discussion evoked by Homegoing back in February.

    Again, I really appreciate your perspective. After reading the book, I found myself being unforgiving towards Yejide, because of my expectation of her as a mother. But I’m getting ahead of myself here, let’s start from the beginning.

    I think on recommending this book my comment was “the tea is hot” or something to that effect. Truthfully, this book was an emotional rollercoaster; I went from feling utter disgust, dispair for Yejide, sorrow for her countless losses, and resentment for her ultimate choice.

    Coming from a Caribbean background, I struggled with how Akin’s mother treated Yejide. I read the book some time last year but the taste of resentment at Yejide’s own distance from her home stood out to me as cruel, and my annoyance with Akin’s minimally defending her against his mother really irritated me as well.

    As I delve further into Nigerian art forms (web series, film, literature), there’s a dissonance for me with the characterization of Nigerians being such strongly willed people, but who fold like cloth at their parents oft unreasonable demands and expectations (See Skinny Girl in Transit- great Nigerian web series that has shun a great deal of light for me on this issue).

    You mentioned in the review that Yejide became a shell of herself and it began with the introduction of lightskinned Funmi. I was initially confused with Jide’s ritual practices, and was sad for her as she struggled through the phantom pregnancy. When the affair came about, I was thoroughly entertained (the tea). It was unexpected, lighthearted, and kind of scandalous. While at that point in the book I remember telling everyone who would listen that they need to read this book for the tea, because it was so entertaining.

    On the consecutive loss of her children. As you said, but for someone who has had her experience, no one can truly understand how broken Yejide must have been to struggle initially with becoming pregnant, be ridiculed, finally bring her children to term, love them, nurture them, name them, and to then lose them to circumstances completely beyond her control. However, Adebayo was wonderful, and she allowed me to come as close to that feeling as I could.

    In High school in Jamaica we learned about Sickle cell, its prevalence in demographics of African descent, it’s origins, and even saw one or two classmates struggle with the disease. The book drove this completely home for me, however, and made my heart pour out for those who struggled with the disease.

    Finally, my resentment toward Yejide; I get it. She probably just couldn’t handle any more loss. I imagine her shoulders to be bent with exhaustion, frustration, her husband’s betrayal, and the thought of losing another child. But even so, I still find it hard to forgive her for giving up on a being to whom she gave life.

    Rotimi was gracious to her, far more so than I believed she deserved, and I was happy that it was so, but my spirit will never sit right with a mother who gives up on a baby she chose to have. Kinda harsh but..

    On Recommendations: Brit Bennet – The Mothers. Similar subtext as this novel, but on the African American front. I also just picked up Queenie, by Candice Carty-Williams. It’s gotten rave reviews, is about a British Jamaican girl trying to make it in London, and I figured you may relate and/or enjoy!

    1. Hey Nykeeba, aka Book Bestie!!

      Wow, thank you so much for this breakdown. I completely understand your frustration with Yejide when it came to the Rotimi situation, I was really shocked with how that relationship unfolded.

      Thank you for unwrapping the social dynamics os ‘Stay with Me’ from a Carribean perspective, it’s always interesting to take stories out of their distinct cultural contexts and step back. Finally, the recommendations have been added to the JTO Book Club List (I have heard amazing things about Queenie – can’t wait to read it)!

  5. This is a beautiful book, from
    what I’ve read in your review. What I like is Ayobami’s
    use of narrating voices, gives the reader access to the
    fears, pain, Insecurity, loneliness, ego and anger of
    the major characters of the story and one cannot help
    but acutely feel, almost without judging, what drives
    Yejide and Akin to take the decisions they make. I
    can’t wait to read this

    1. Hi Emmanuel,

      Ayobami indeed is a master of deeply personal and believable narration – you’ll love this book!

  6. Stay with me is a beautiful book.
    It is actually the next thing for me to read.
    It is so relatable and give me us a great understanding of the pressures that women go through who are unable to have kids and when they do it’s hard to balance the emotions and all especially if they turn out unwell.
    I would really love to read this book I know a few people going through this I would love to read this before I can recommend it.

    1. Hi Cynthia,

      I would love to hear your thoughts after you read “Stay with Me”, the rollercoaster and devastation of motherhood in this book is incredibly poignant.

  7. STAY WITH ME is a great read but what i wanted more was to see Akin and Yejide commit to making their marraige better. Every marraige go through crisis but love conqueres all. Akin made horrific decisions, some out of ignorance and some out of his emotions, and in these cases we all know he could have avoided more if he had taken time to learn about marraige. I studied the Akin and i know so well he loves his wife more than anything! I wonder how many times he had to deal with recieving letters from impersonators, how many times he had to stay stand firm when people try to tear them apart. He faced hidden battles, battles fought in the dark and no one could see why he made those decisions. I love you so much for sharing this book with us, we can capitalize on the mistakes of Akin to make our marraige great. There’s nothing better than a couple committed to making a marraige better, sometimes it’s tough but letting go is never an option, so darling, please stay with me.

  8. This seems like such a great read! I literally had to skip some parts cause I don’t want to spoil it for myself. My favorite book has got to be Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime, because it literally feels like a journey, and you’re right beside him the whole time!

  9. (Spoilers ahead)
    First of all, I want to thank whoever recommended this book, not only was it a good read but this book club made things more clearer. Aha I do have time to read a book that is not my textbook
    The fact that Akin might have initiated the affair possibly due to his impotency dawned on me when he had gone to church looking for redemption. Prior to that chapter, i dont think i was actually reading the book. If there is any issue I had while reading is that we had two other characters, dotun and fummi who supposedly had a huge impact In the lives of both yejide and akin and we yet, we were not told their supposed intentions on regards to their actions. Was fummi a bad person or a surviver
    Overall I do think everyone played a major role in the disaster that came off yejide and akin’s union.
    So my handle is @chiyanna_u I would like this book so as to gift it to my sister, read mine as an ebook, knowing my sister, she would never to that.
    It would make for a perfect birthday gift. Thanks
    The book I am reading now was recommended by this book and it is title what it means when a man falls from the sky. Now it is a collection of stories by one author but it is pretty good

    1. Hi Chinenye,

      Thank you for your comment!

      Yes, it was really sloped how we knew the direct thoughts and intentions of Yejide and Akin yet when it came to Dotun and Funmi so many questions were left – however, I really liked that aspect of the book because a lot of things were left up in the air… I was really left guessing as a reader…

  10. I tried to DM you but it isn’t going through at all?? please i would really love to have this book I’ll comment down on your page so you can see my handle @kechi__

  11. Stay with me is amazing from your review and I love reading African novels ever since I got my hands on chimamanda’s Americana . Americana by chimamanda is my favourite book because it is detailed and each time I read it i imagine my self as the character it was soo amazing that regardless of how large the book was I was able to finish it in one day ??❤❤

    My Instagram handle is @kechi__ just incase ? ( kechi with two underscores )

    1. You finished ‘Americanah’ in one day! What?! Love that.

      ‘Americanah’ has once again been added to the JTO Book Club list and will be a focus very very soon :)

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JTO Fashion

JTO is far from just a fashion blog. The all-inclusive website was founded in 2014 by Temi Otedola, who was motivated to start blogging her personal thoughts and inspirations. Temi continues to use JTO as a platform from which she can express her adventures through the arenas of fashion, beauty, art, and travel.