Author: Ayobami Adebayo
Price: Ksh. 1,750
Available at: Prestige Bookshop
Four years into Yejide and Akin’s marriage, Yejide’s stomach is still as flat as a young girl’s; ‘nothing to show for the marriage’ – As a childless marriage has been described in this part of the world. When her in-laws show up at her door with a beautiful tall girl with red lips as Akin’s proposed second wife, Yejide knows she has to do something to prevent sharing her husband, but at what cost?
Akin and Yejide have long agreed that polygamy is not their portion and they love each other. But what happens when the love is hit by culture, pride and grief?
“Yejide would have a child and we would be happy forever. The cost didn’t matter. It didn’t matter how many rivers we had to cross. At the end of it all was this stretch of happiness that was supposed to begin only after we had children and not a minute before.”
But are there rivers that aren’t meant to be crossed? Will they remain unscathed after getting to other side? Will love be their shield and defender? Akin would later find out:
“I loved Yejide from the very first moment. No doubt about that. But there are things even love can’t do. Before I got married, I believed love could do anything. I learned soon enough that it couldn’t bear the weight of four years without children. If the burden is too much and stays too long, even love bends, cracks, comes close to breaking and sometimes does break. But even when it’s in a thousand pieces around your feet, that doesn’t mean it’s no longer love.”
Yejide’s desperation for a child almost drives her mad. Eventually, Yejide does get pregnant but faces the prospect of losing the child to sickle-cell anaemia.
Set in the political climate of the 80’s in Nigeria and spanning to 2008, one can wonder if the novel is about family or a larger political landscape. The political climate does not, however, take you away from the personal and engaging family drama, cleverly so.
From the beginning, this drama is hooking. Unexpected surprises keep popping up, keeping you glued for more. In a painfully beautiful and heartfelt narration, between doses of pain and grief, the author throws in comic relief now and then the author.
I travelled with Yejide and felt her pain. Akin still feels a little inaccessible; like if I follow him around, I’ll discover more secrets.
This is a story about love, loss, grief, deception and lies, motherhood and fertility and redemption.
“So love is like a test, but in what sense? To what end? Who was carrying out the test? But I think I did believe that Love had immense power to unearth all that was good in us, refine us and reveal to us the better versions of ourselves.”
“OK, we’ll tell her you dug the grave.” It’s the truth – stretch, but still true. Besides, what would be left of love without truth stretched beyond its limits, without those better versions of ourselves that we present as the only ones that exist?”
“But the biggest lies are often the ones we tell ourselves.”
“It would take a while for me to realise that each of my children had given me as much as they took. My memories of them, bittersweet and constant, were as powerful as a physical presence. And because of that, as a bus bore me into the heart of a city I did not know, while my last child was dying in Lagos and the country was unraveling, I was not afraid because I was not alone.”
In your opinion, can a marriage work out without children? Or can children exist without a marriage?