The Paris Review

Great Expectations: An Interview with Ayobami Adebayo

Photo: Pixels Digital

Stay with Me, the debut novel by Nigerian Ayobami Adebayo, explores a contemporary marriage in a Yoruba community stubbornly tied to tradition. Despite suspicious in-laws, scheming second wives, and secretive spouses, Yejide and Akin try to break from their obstinate middle-class neighbors’ outdated views on matrimony. Akin, an accountant and the eldest son in an influential family, initially rejects the notion of polygamy; Yejide takes pride in her successful beauty salon and her forward-thinking views on life and motherhood. Yejide’s inability to get pregnant, however, tests the couple’s values, and their future.

In her last review for the New York Times, Michiko Kakutani described Stay with Me as being “at once, a gothic parable about pride and betrayal; a thoroughly contemporary—and deeply moving—portrait of a marriage; and a novel, in the lineage of great works by Chinua Achebe and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.” 

In a nearly hour-long telephone conversation from Brooklyn to Nigeria (with a three-second delay and an interviewer just discovering voice recording via cell phone), Adebayo reflected on the characters she had a difficult time getting to know and whom she subsequently couldn’t let go. 

INTERVIEWER

Yejide will join a pantheon of unforgettable literary heroines. How did you find her?

ADEBAYO

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