...[a] stunning debut novel ... [Stay With Me] has a remarkable emotional resonance and depth of field. It is, at once, a gothic parable about pride and betrayal; a thoroughly contemporary — and deeply moving — portrait of a marriage; and a novel, in the lineage of great works by Chinua Achebe and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, that explores the pull in Nigeria between tradition and modernity, old definitions of masculinity and femininity, and newer imperatives of self-definition and identity ... while readers may pick up on this novel’s many allusions and borrowings (for instance, its nods to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies, in creating a stereoscopic portrait of a marriage), Stay With Me feels entirely fresh, thanks to its author’s ability to map tangled familial relationships with nuance and precision, and her intimate understanding of her characters’ yearnings, fears and self-delusions ... Adebayo is an exceptional storyteller. She writes not just with extraordinary grace but with genuine wisdom about love and loss and the possibility of redemption. She has written a powerfully magnetic and heartbreaking book.
Stay with Me is a triumph — a complex, deeply felt exploration of love, marriage and family amid cultural and political upheaval in Nigeria from 1985 to 2008. Adebayo's story contains enormous energy. Over and over, this reader found it hard to close the book and move onto other things ... This humane approach to her characters gives Adebayo the space to examine painful, dark human emotions without prompting condemnation of characters she clearly loves ... If this sounds grim, it is — until the very end of the book, which offers a lovely coda of hope. The effect of this ending filled with light is profound. Adebayo drives the reader in a thrilling, headlong rush.
...animated dialogue is a delight throughout the novel, and Moomi’s voice is the loudest among the vivid, persuasive characters who bring this Yoruba community to life ... Adébáyò has been tutored in writing by both Margaret Atwood and fellow Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and though there is still room for growth, she has a thoroughly contemporary style that is all her own. Her clever and funny take on domestic life and Nigerian society is a welcome addition to her country’s burgeoning literary scene. Despite the intense sadness of her subject matter, she has produced a bright, big-hearted demonstration of female spirit, as well as the damage done by the boundlessness of male pride.
Stay With Me is told in chapters that alternate between Yejide’s and Akin’s points of view. Unlike so many first-time novelists, Ms. Adebayo shows empathy with all her characters, no matter how selfish or wrongheaded they may sometimes be. Ms. Adebayo excels at conveying Yejide’s turbulent, and defiant, emotional life ... The personalities and motivations of Ms. Adebayo’s characters are believable, though their physical presences are barely sketched in...The same is true of the cities and landscapes through which the author’s people move. There is little sense of what it is like to climb the Mountain of Jaw-Dropping Miracles, or why the city of Jos is considered beautiful. The book has a headlong momentum that keeps us turning the pages, but the strain of stage-managing all the secrets, betrayals, and misunderstandings that drive the plot sometimes shows. When the last page is turned and we think back over what has happened, plot holes that escaped us in this flurry of activity become apparent ... When Ms. Adebayo takes a moment to breathe, her characters express themselves with beautiful clarity.
The most subtly brilliant aspect of Stay With Me is how this stunning literary work serves as both astute political commentary and unfolding mystery. Adebayo draws a clear parallel between the couple and the country: like Nigeria's middle class, quiescent in the face of political upheaval, Akin and Yejide keep accepting the unthinkable to keep their family intact. As Yejide and Akin recount the story of their romance, they also reveal the lies and omissions that are destroying them from the inside.
Adébáyò doesn’t sentimentalise the traditions that perpetuate Yejide’s struggles, and the inclusion of both their voices allows Akin particularly to become fully dimensional; this is not just a woman’s story. Their fury defines them in different ways, but they seem to respect decisions taken on their behalf even as they rail against them. This quiet portrayal of their lives plays out amid mounting political tensions in the Nigeria of the 1980s and 1990s ... This is a tale of real complexity and humanity, part psychological observation and social study. It is the couple’s third child, their daughter Rotimi, who gives the novel its ultimately hopeful name: stay with me, a concept of stability that both parents had resigned themselves to as an impossibility.
The novel careens backward and forward in time against a backdrop of politics, protests, crime and civil unrest … Rarely do novelists convey the mixed emotions of early motherhood — the tedium, confusion, terror, guilt, ecstasy and delight — as accurately as this book does. Yejide’s perspective as a betrayed wife struggling with fertility and later as a mother struggling with her children’s sickle cell anemia is conveyed with an operatic intensity … After many heartbreaking revelations, the novel resolves with an unexpected degree of warmth.
Although Adebayo wields misfortune to shed light on the pressures of marriage, melodrama, at times, crowds out sympathy for the human-sized grief of her characters. Still, in the moments when Yejide confronts the fear and uncertainty of raising children with sickle cell anemia, Adebayo's writing shines. Set against a backdrop of student protests, a presidential assassination, and a military coup, Adebayo's novel captures how the turmoil of Nigerian life in the 1980s and '90s seeps into the most personal of decisions—to fight for, and protect, one’s family. Adebayo’s debut marks the emergence of a fine young writer.
Adebayo slowly reveals their unspoken shame by having both narrate chapters covering the same events. Yejide’s strong ache to be a mother and her frustration with traditional Yoruba culture make her a complex character. Adebayo shows great promise in her debut novel. Her methodical exposure of her characters’ secrets forces the reader into continual reevaluations and culminates in a tender, satisfying conclusion.