Michiko Kakutani Calls Ayobami Adebayo an Exceptional Storyteller
August 07, 2017
It’s one thing to have your book reviewed by the New York Times. It’s an entirely different thing to score a review by Michiko Kakutani.
In 2002, Michiko Kakutani, the beloved and revered New York Times book critic, helped kickstart Zadie Smith’s literary career with a review of White Teeth that called Smith “a gifted new author” and “a writer of remarkable powers.” Kakutani is what you’d call a kingmaker. She can make or break a literary career with one adjective. That’s why it matters to us that Kakutani read Ayobami Adebayo’s debut novel, Stay with Me, and liked it a WHOLE lot.
The review shows that Kakutani pretty much loved everything about the book—from the book cover to Ayobami’s storytelling abilities.
Here are a few excerpts:
A beautifully produced book with a Matisse-inspired jacket that felicitously captures the spirit of the author’s writing — has a remarkable emotional resonance and depth of field,” Kakutani writes.
It is, 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, that explores the pull in Nigeria between tradition and modernity, old definitions of masculinity and femininity, and newer imperatives of self-definition and identity.
Adebayo — who was born in Lagos, Nigeria, and who studied with Adichie and Margaret Atwood — has two master’s degrees in creative writing, and “Stay With Me” is deeply informed by a knowledge of contemporary and classic literature.“Stay With Me” feels entirely fresh, thanks to its author’s ability to map tangled familial relationships with nuance and precision, and her intimate understanding of her characters’ yearnings, fears and self-delusions.
Adebayo, who is 29, is an exceptional storyteller. She writes not just with extraordinary grace but with genuine wisdom about love and loss and the possibility of redemption. She has written a powerfully magnetic and heartbreaking book.
We love that Kakutani focuses on story, what is powerful and “magnetic” about and not on empty generalizations about social issues.
We should also point out, for those of you who do not know, that this review is Kakutani’s last review. After a 40-year career of knighting as well as dethroning authors of all rank and status, Kakutani bows out with what is essentially a “love letter to Stay With Me.” How cool is that!
Congrats to Ayobami. Her book commands the attention and praise of readers and critics the world over. You go girl!
Click HERE to buy State With Me.
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