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***Please be aware this is a book club discussion, so there is the possibility that my review or the comments left by others will contain spoilers***
Stay With Me
Set in 1980s Nigeria during times of political unrest, Stay With Me tells the story of Yejide and her husband Akin and their hope for a child. When a new wife for Akin is introduced at the insistence of his family, it is not view favourably by Yejide.
My Quick Review
Stay With Me covers many difficult subjects including child mortality, extra-marital sex, sexism, grief, infertility and politics. As you can imagine, this makes the book quite difficult to read on a occasion. However, the book is written with a lot of humanity and at times with humour.
The book features many strong female characters, including our protagonist Yejide. What consistently shocked me about the book was the horrific sexism deployed by the mother-in-law towards Yejide. This book is an excellent portrayal of Nigerian family culture and I learned so much from it.
I felt like the title of the book was referring more to Yejide’s children than her husband. When I first started to read the book, I thought it would be referring to their marriage, but it came clearer further into the book that it was the children that she so desperately wanted to stay with her.
This book is well-written and shows a lot of potential for author Ayobami Adebayo. It is a book about the bond of mothers with their children, about female strength, family and love.
Questions to Consider
1. Discuss the early stages of Yejide and Akin’s courtship, from both of their perspectives. What is Yejide’s initial reaction to Akin’s romantic propositions? Consider Yejide’s childhood and past that is revealed over the course of the novel. What does she seek in a romantic relationship? How does Akin provide security for her? How does Akin convince Yejide that he is trustworthy?
2. Consider the family unit as a social force in Stay with Me. How do the opinions of Akin’s family members influence his decisions? Describe the relationship between Akin and his parents. How does Akin both obey and defy the wishes of his family? How does Yejide navigate her role as a daughter-in-law?
3. In the beginning of Stay with Me, the reader is introduced to the central conflict of Yejide and Akin’s life: their infertility as a couple. How is Yejide and Akin’s childlessness seen as a reflection on the family unit? What is the burden of expectation placed on Yejide? How is she treated by Akin’s family as a result of her infertility? By the community? How do attitudes toward Yejide change once she is pregnant?
4. Discuss the road leading to Yejide’s first pregnancy. How do the social pressures to become a mother weigh on Yejide? Once Yejide learns that she is no longer Akin’s only wife, how does the urgency of her mission become more pronounced? Consider the barriers to her pregnancy, and what she learns about herself from the field remedies and the medical establishment. How does the psychological trauma that accompanies her journey weigh on her throughout the novel?
5. The tension between modern attitudes and traditional thought informs much of Stay with Me. How does Yejide and Akin’s early agreement of monogamy conflict with the prevailing social attitude? How does this create tension over the course of the novel? How does Yejide defy the wishes of her husband’s family? How does the eventual shift of parental responsibilities to Akin upend the expectations of motherhood and parenting?
6. Consider the identity of “mother,” and how understanding of that role shifts for Yejide over the course of the novel. How does the story of her mother’s death influence her worldview and her perspective on family? Discuss the relationship Yejide had with her father’s other wives. Which woman in her life, if any, provides her with an understanding of what a loving mother-child relationship looks like? Once she becomes a mother, how does her self-image change?
7. Describe Yejide’s relationship with Iya Bolu. How does Iya Bolu’s attitude toward Yejide shift over the years? When does Yejide seem to earn the most respect from Iya Bolu? When does she earn her sympathy?
8. Consider the political background of Stay with Me. How does the instability of the government undermine the health and happiness of Yejide and her family? How does the political upheaval reflect the emotional turmoil of Yejide and Akin?
9. The reveal of Akin’s medical condition is an important development in the plot. Given this revelation, would you consider Funmi’s death to be purposeful? How did you interpret his reaction to her accusation? How does Akin contend with threats to his masculinity throughout the novel?
10. Discuss the significance of the hair salon in Yejide’s life. How does it encourage her independence? How does it act as a place of gathering within their community?
11. Compare the bedtime story that Yejide tells her children with the tale that Akin shares with Rotimi as she grows. What do these stories reveal about the worldviews of both parents? What lessons are they sharing? How is it a cautionary tale between parent and child? How does it reflect Yejide’s own childhood experiences?
12. Discuss the process of mourning as depicted in Stay with Me. How does the community react to Yejide’s mourning for the loss of her first child versus her second? Discuss the general attitude towards Yejide’s depression from her family and those around her.
13. What is Akin’s relationship with his brother? How do they compete with each other? How do they jockey for the coveted spot of favored son throughout the novel? After their brawl, how does their relationship change? Do you think Dotun possessed real romantic feelings for Yejide?
14. Discuss Yejide’s reunion with Rotimi. Were you surprised by this reveal? How did you interpret Timi’s insistence on calling Yejide “Moomi”?
15. Stay with Me is a novel that challenges readers’ expectations with its surprising reveals, its secrets, and its deception. What plot development did you find to be most surprising? How does Adebayo play with the idea of expectation versus reality throughout the novel?
My order (by how much I enjoyed them), of the 6 books we read in the first half of 2018. Click on the titles for the book club reviews:
6. Sweet Pea by C J Skuse
5. Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan
3. Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo (joint 3rd place)
3. This is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel
2. Slade House by David Mitchell
1. Animal by Sara Pascoe
As you know, I’m dong things slightly differently with Just Another Book Club. I will now only be opening the book club discussion at the end of every 6 months, but I will be leaving a space on my Facebook page and Instagram on a monthly basis for people to discuss earlier if they so wish.
For a list of the books we are reading for the second half of 2018, click HERE
You can view my Goodreads page here