Sunday, March 21, 2021

REVIEW: My Sister, the Serial Killer (book) by Oyinkan Braithwaite

My Sister, the Serial Killer is a psychological thriller. I bought my copy used.

This review includes spoilers.


This is set in Lagos, Nigeria. When Korede's younger sister, Ayoola, calls and asks for her help after killing a man, Korede is more resigned than shocked. The man is Femi, Ayoola's boyfriend, and he's the third person she has killed. Ayoola says that he was angry with her, that she killed him in self-defense. She said that before about the other two, and Korede is no longer sure she believes her. But Ayoola is her sister, so she helps her clean up all traces of blood and dispose of the body.

Ayoola quickly moves on, but Korede can't stop thinking about Femi. She copes by focusing on her job (she's a nurse) and confiding in the one person she knows who won't spill her secrets, a coma patient at her hospital. However, when Ayoola's dangerous beauty threatens to ensnare Tade, a doctor Korede is secretly in love with, Korede must decide how far she's really willing to go to protect her sister.

The first thing I thought of when I started this was Natsuo Kirino's Out, which also featured murder cleanup, rising tension, and exploration of feminist issues. Although in the end the two books weren't that similar, both have blurbs and reviews that make them sound like black comedies, and I really don't understand it. There is nothing in the tone of either book that says "black comedy" to me. Both are more bleak and painful than darkly funny.

Considering the title and description, I had thought My Sister, the Serial Killer would feature more murder and gore than it did, but it was actually pretty tame in that respect, and nothing that did happen was on-page. No, the book's real focus was on Korede - her motivations and relationship with her sister.

Ayoola was always the beautiful, beloved, and impulsive sister. Men were naturally drawn to her, like moths to a flame. Korede was the ugly sister (or so she tells us - the entire book is her POV) who was always expected to be the responsible one, the one who looked out for her little sister. That never changed, even after they became adults.

Korede's feelings about her sister were complicated, to say the least. She recognized what Ayoola was and knew that her sister didn't really care about anyone but herself, but she was also bound to Ayoola by their shared childhood experiences and a lifetime of being told that she must always take care of her. It was an unsettling relationship that had helped them both survive, up to this point, but I wondered how Korede would react when Tade, a man she cared about, caught Ayoola's eye.

I don't know that I liked any of the characters in this book, but I could empathize with Korede and even Ayoola to a certain extent. Although he'd been dead for years, their abusive father continued to be an inescapable part of their lives. He ruled their household with an iron fist, and anyone who might have been able to help them was either useless, didn't know, or refused to believe what was going on. The only people they could rely on were each other.

Still, the ending was tough. I don't think Korede had any good choices - there was ample evidence that any decision she might have made would have turned out badly for her and at least one person she cared about - but I do think she had a right choice, and it was painful to watch her spend the entire book circling around it and then not go that route.

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