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The Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club has read Stay with Me this year, and we have had the pleasure of author Ayobami Adebayo joining us for our discussion. This book packs on weight as it gives readers a glimpse into the depths of another culture. It follows couple Yejide and Akin as they navigate the familial and societal pressures of not having children. As the story progresses, they each experience heartache as they fall under the expectations surrounding them and manipulate what they tell themselves about their fates and flaws.

This novels enlightens readers on the expectations of family that sometimes leads to polygamy in Northern African and Middle Eastern cultures and the weight of those decisions on the wives and husbands involved. It also shows the struggle of Sickle Cell Disease, a common health issue in Nigeria and one that affects the author. The characters give an authentic voice to these issues and remind readers they have more complexity than they appear. Universal themes of heartbreak, family tensions, marriage hopes and health obstacles give a relatability to a seemingly vastly different culture.

The characters, as many of us do in real life, must adjust their expectations of their lives and marriages as well as filter the advice they receive through what they know themselves. Yejide eventually learns that her childlessness actually stems from her husband rather than herself. Yet she didn’t want to believe her husband had flaws, especially since he didn’t voice them himself. We see the realization of Akin’s observation early in the book that “even when it’s in a thousand pieces around your feet, that doesn’t mean it’s no longer love.” Their love and lives bend as they experience loss and setback, but they still maintain a certain hope.

I really appreciate this book. The characters demonstrate a lot of depth, and their situations enlightened me to more human experiences. Adebayo clearly writes about Nigeria and Sickle Cell Disease with authority, and she shares her knowledge and wisdom so we can gain a greater understanding of those topics. It gives me more insight into the background of some of the students I teach. I recommend this book as a good story as well as a tool for learning.