London Book Club was very excited to be chosen to shadow the Bailey’s Prize for a second time. We were even more excited to be given Stay with Me, by Ayobami Adebayo, as our book as it was already on a number of our TBR lists but none of us had read it yet.
We were universal in enjoying the book and it was a great book club option, provoking lots of discussion (we sometimes find this rare when we all like the book!). As is our tradition, we started by sharing our ‘one word descriptions’ for the book. These included: pressure, introspective, unexpected, compelling, turmoil, patriarchy, and ‘surprisingly funny’ (ok, not one word, but still a fair description). We agreed that it was warm, evocative and accessible, and had an interesting side-discussion about the politics of the book having been written in English.
The centre of our conversation was, naturally, the twist in the plot (warning: slight spoilers ahead) and our feelings about the actions and responses of the Yejide, Akin, and Dotun s they dealt with Yejide and Akin’s childlessness and the solution that Akin devised to it. Was it believable? Why wouldn’t he have told her what was going on with him? Why would he be surprised that his plan went so off the rails? This kind of thing always goes off the rails and we know, after all, that he’s seen at least one film… We spent a good amount of time discussing the kind of communication that we expect between mutually loving partners – and the technicalities of sex – as we adjudicated betrayal and justification.
What we really appreciated is that no character is wholly unempathetic: although most of our sympathies were for Yejide we could understand, to some extent, why Akin would be unwilling to tell her about his problem. It was particularly interesting that it made us face into the reality of our own white anglo-saxon-ness as a group and how has an effect upon our ability to put ourselves into the world that Adebayo describes. A number of our members have been doing ‘Read Harder’ as a challenge this year so we’ve been trying to stretch ourselves in the diversity of book’s we’ve been reading. Stay with Me was a great book in helping us along that journey.