Get your tissues for this one – you will need them. Shortlisted for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction 2017 this book is one of the most emotional from the shortlist I have read so far. It is also the only debut novel which got to the shortlist and for that Adebayo should be commended.
‘I must leave this city and come to you‘
Adebayo’s story starts with letter-like conversations between a couple who have separated some time ago. The reason for the separation is not immediately clear but the reader can sense an impending need for the couple to reunite as soon as possible.
Yejide, a fiercely independent woman, falls in love and marries the love of her live – Akin. What follows is some heart breaking attempts at procreation. First, we understand the difficulty following Yejide’s mother in law bringing Akin’s second wife to the marital home protesting that she will not allow her son to not have children. The spotlight on Yejide’s ‘failure’ as a wife is bright and unyielding:
‘Women manufacture children and if you can’t you are just a man. Nobody should call you a woman.’
This for a woman against polygamy after having lived with many ‘mothers’ does not sit well with Yejide. Despite Akin’s reassurances that his second wife is purely there for one purpose and one purpose only you can already feel a seismic shift in their relationship.
The pressure for Yejide to hold on to her man sees her imagining a pregnancy following a visit to a holy man. After 12 months and no baby Yejide is forced to accept that there was, in fact, no baby. When this dawned on me whilst reading it I genuinely felt like someone had punched me in the stomach.
With a phantom baby and a second wife what will Yejide do to keep her man and her sanity? Affairs, murder and loss of her most prized possessions sees the gap between the couple widen even further. Betrayal, lies and a loss of hope leads to the end – or does it?
I won’t ruin the story (I hate reviews that do that!) but let’s just say that there are so many ups and downs in this you will want to take a firm seat whilst reading it.
Ultimately a novel dealing with loneliness Adebayo’s story is just beautiful. Adebayo is surely a talent to watch for the future. What a whirlwind of a debut.
Recommended for: if you liked Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi you will love this one.
Favourite quote: ‘A good mother’s life is hard, she said, a woman can be a bad wife but she must not be a bad mother.‘