Stay with Me is a slow-burner of a first novel, one that I almost quit about 50 pages in, but decided to keep going, and boy, am I ever glad I did. It's the story of a Nigerian couple, Yejide and Akin, who meet at university and get married, agreeing to buck Nigerian tradition and remain monogamous; Akin won't take additional wives.
That's all well and good until four years go by and Yejide isn't pregnant. Akin's family continues to pressure him to take another wife so that he can have children. Yejide is opposed, but one day, family members arrive at the door with a young woman they introduce as being Akin's second wife.
Not surprisingly, Yejide feel very betrayed. But she's also worried that if the second wife gets pregnant first, Yejide will lose her marriage to a man she truly loves.
This is where the story started to both ripen and darken. What Yejide goes through to try and become pregnant is astonishing. But beyond that, there's a plot twist that I saw coming a mile away, but I ended up not caring, because by the time it was revealed, I was fully invested in this couple and how they were trying to maintain what had started out as a strong marriage, but which is disintegrating under pressure from family who insist on traditional Nigerian practices.
It could be said, somewhat fairly, that this book has a bit of a soap opera vibe. But I think the author mostly kept away from that. To me, it felt almost like an allegory on several levels, including politically, as some critical points in the book take place in 1993, when Nigeria was undergoing some major political changes. The author smartly doesn't go too deep into the weeds here, but layers enough in that we understand there's turmoil, and that the turmoil mirrors and affects the personal distress of the characters.
Overall, I'd say it's an excellent debut, and I can't wait to see what author Ayobami Adebayo does next.