My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Published by Doubleday Books on November 20, 2018
my rating: ★★★★
Goodreads avg: 3.82 (as of 2019-04-26)
My Sister, the Serial Killer is a blackly comic novel about how blood is thicker – and more difficult to get out of the carpet – than water…
When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This’ll be the third boyfriend Ayoola’s dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first. Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede’s long been in love with him, and isn’t prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other…
I would argue this is probably the most “accessible” Women’s Prize book I’ve read so far due to its readability. This was so easy to breeze through, in part because the pages in my copy were quite small, in part because of its length, and in part because it’s such a page-turner. The narrator of this little novel is Korede, a young woman whose sister Ayoola is a serial killer. Korede is the responsible older sister and works as a nurse. Ayoola is the spoiled younger sibling who spends her time at home designing clothing or out being courted by men.
While Ayoola’s purported innocence is explored somewhat, the focus of this book lies far more in the characters’ various relationships as well as the malleability of our own morality. As we discover during the story’s beginning, Korede has helped Ayoola cover up her crimes and deals with immense guilt for playing a part in the deaths of potentially innocent men. At the same time, she feels an intense responsibility to protect her sister, particularly due to their shared history which is slowly revealed as the story unravels.
I really loved Korede, and felt like she was an incredibly sympathetic character. She has grown up with a gorgeous younger sister who turns heads everywhere she goes, while she herself is not nearly as aesthetically gifted. She is responsible and works hard and seems to suffer for it, as she is not appreciated by her coworkers nor her own family. I became extremely invested in her story and found myself becoming frustrated and sad alongside her. Of course, Korede comes to a fork in the metaphorical road where she must decide how to proceed with her sister. Can she allow Ayoola to continue on as she has been, or will she finally find a way to intervene? There seems to be no easy answer and I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen.
Overall, I found this to be quite an enjoyable read. I wouldn’t summarize it as a traditional thriller or mystery, although that’s what I’ve seen it shelved most often as. As I said above, it is more an exploration of interpersonal relationships and how these impact our morals. I’ll definitely be recommending this one around, though, as I think it will interest a wide variety of readers. It’s probably close to the top of my favorites list for Women’s Prize books so far.
More Women’s Prize 2019 Longlist reviews:
Lost Children Archive
Praise Song for the Butterflies
An American Marriage
My Sister, the Serial Killer
The Silence of the Girls