Day 1225: Literary Wives! Stay With Me

Cover for Stay With MeToday is another review for the Literary Wives blogging club, in which we discuss the depiction of wives in fiction. If you have read the book, please participate by leaving comments on any of our blogs. Be sure to read the reviews and comments of the other wives!

We are happy to announce that Emily will be rejoining our discussions. However, Kate and TJ have resigned the club. We will miss them!

Emily of The Bookshelf of Emily J.
Eva of Paperback Princess
Lynn of Smoke and Mirrors
Naomi of Consumed By Ink

List for 2018-2019

We have just finished the selection process for our next group of books! Literary Wives will be reading the following books in the coming months.

August 2018: First Love by Gwendolyn Riley
October 2018: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
December 2018: The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve
February 2019: They Were Sisters by Dorothy Whipple
April 2019: Wait for Me, Jack by Addison Jones
June 2019:  A Separation by Katie Kitamura
August 2019: Ties by Domenic Starnone
October 2019: Happenstance by Carol Shields
December 2019: The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
February 2020: War of the Wives by Tamar Cohen

My Review

Yejide and Akin have been married for four years, she believes happily. But one day, Yejide’s malicious stepmothers show up with Funmi and introduce her as Akin’s second wife. Because the couple is childless, Akin’s family has talked him into marrying again. He did this without Yejide’s knowledge even though they had both agreed they didn’t believe in polygamy.

Yejide now becomes obsessed with having a child. Soon, she is suffering from a false pregnancy. Funmi, even though she has her own apartment, has started moving her things into Yejide’s and Akin’s house. The situation is made worse for Yejide, because her father’s other wives mistreated her as a child and continue to do so. She understands very well the pitfalls of this custom.

Akin is obviously a weak man unable to withstand pressure from his family. It turns out things are worse than that, however, and Yejide’s marriage will soon be in crisis.

Taking place in mid-1980’s Nigeria, this novel is set against the backdrop of political and social chaos. During one period, ordinary people have robbers breaking into their houses and stealing things while they are home. Yejide is an appealing and sympathetic character, and her people’s customs are interesting although sometimes appalling. The members of both families seem aggressive and rude at times. Overall, this is a fascinating novel.

What does this book say about wives or about the experience of being a wife?

I try to avoid spoilers even for this club, but for this topic that may be difficult. This novel depicts a culture that places almost all the emphasis in marriage on having children and men’s virility. Yejide finds that Akin has never been honest with her, even since the beginning of their marriage. To avoid having a discussion with his naive wife and his family, he begins a deception that is ultimately too damaging for their marriage.

Literary Wives logoLater, Akin says that he made arrangements for his most dishonest actions because he was worried about her, but it is clearly to avoid admitting his part in their fertility problems, an admission that would have solved most of their other problems.

Although both partners continue to believe they love each other, at no point do they frankly and honestly discuss their problems with each other. This omission is largely because of the weight of cultural conventions, but that does not excuse it. Their marriage is built on lies and omissions and continues into more lies, with tragic results.

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9 thoughts on “Day 1225: Literary Wives! Stay With Me

  1. Naomi June 4, 2018 / 12:24 pm

    When you put it like that, things sound pretty bleak! It’s interesting that it doesn’t feel that bleak while reading the book.
    I was surprised by how desperate their situation made them. I thought the book did a good job at showing the power of cultural expectations, even when you don’t believe in them yourself!
    I have to admit, I’m not sure what to think about the fact that Yejide didn’t ever seem to figure out for herself what Akin’s issue was…

    • whatmeread June 4, 2018 / 12:45 pm

      Hmm, I wasn’t that surprised at that, although he had shown he could lie. She just believed him when he told her he was okay. I was really shocked that he could go so far as he did with his brother, though!

      • Naomi June 5, 2018 / 10:39 am

        I didn’t know what to think of his brother. I ended up feeling really bad for him, even though it was implied near the beginning that he was a bit of a scoundrel.

      • whatmeread June 5, 2018 / 10:43 am

        Yeah, I didn’t think he was one. I thought it was more of a sibling rivalry situation and a perfect son versus imperfect son thing.

      • Naomi June 5, 2018 / 11:08 am

        That’s probably what it was!

  2. Emily J. June 4, 2018 / 6:00 pm

    I love that you included our upcoming list!

    I am not sure that I agree that Akin is a weak man. I think he’s just a man, and I think all men and women are weak in certain ways. I think what is revealed about him later on shows just how much pressure he was under to produce heirs and how such a problem would be both unspeakable and ridiculously difficult to explain to his family, given their adherence to norms.

    And I was kind of annoyed that the political and social background wasn’t more detailed. It almost felt like it shouldn’t have been in there if there wasn’t more to it.

    • whatmeread June 5, 2018 / 9:47 am

      The least he could have done was tell his wife what the problem was.

      The political and social part didn’t bother me. I felt it affected the characters just about as much as events affect most regular people. Most of the time for many people they’re just there in the background unless they affect them directly. So, when people were breaking into their houses was one of the times when it was more than just weird background noise. I was glad to get the information, though. I didn’t realize it had been quite so turbulent there just for ordinary people.

  3. BuriedInPrint June 5, 2018 / 3:06 pm

    This one landed on my TBR because of it’s inclusion on the women’s fiction prize list last year: there are always good books on there it seems! It kept my interest all the way through, so much so that I couldn’t stop to take notes even!

    • whatmeread June 7, 2018 / 1:01 am

      Exposure to this different culture is especially interesting.

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