This book was not what I expected. For some reason, I thought the serial killer sister was more of a metaphor but no, our main character and narrator’s sister is, in fact, a serial killer. A serial killer, we learn, is defined as someone who has killed three or more people. As the story opens, Korede is summoned again by her sister Ayoola to deal with a dead body. This is the third boyfriend that has died at Ayoola’s hand and by this time Korede is something of an expert at dealing with and disposing of murder victims.
Ayoola is unfazed in the aftermath but Korede is haunted by the dead man’s face and the poem’s his family publishes as they plead with the public to help them find their missing loved one. Korede is the older sister, the more responsible and less beautiful balance to vivacious Ayoola. She takes care of her younger sister, just as she always has, even when Ayoola doesn’t seem to have qualms about her murders and refuses to answer any further questions.
The plot of the novel focuses on the question of how far will Korede let her sister go? Is there a line that Korede will draw where she will stop protecting her sister? What if the next man Ayoola dates is the man Korede herself loves?
There is also the question of how did these young women arrive at this point. Korede’s loyalty may be misguided but it is fierce, even when her sister does nothing to deserve it. Entwined with the present narrative is also the story of their family, of their father. It is the story of what brought these sisters to their current point and the influences that they have borne. It is a story of violence in many forms, particularly the violences committed against women and it is, in some ways, about women taking back power that has historically been denied them.
The book reads like a thriller in parts and was easy to get through. I wanted to keep reading to find out how it ended. When I got to that ending, it felt a bit abrupt and the reveal (such as it is) didn’t feel entirely right based on what had come before. Nevertheless, Braithwaite is clearly a talented author to create such a unique and thoughtful story. Her name is definitely one to keep an eye on.
9 thoughts on “Book Review: My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite”
Great review! I was pleasantly surprised by the depth in this one, having expected a more conventional thriller. That’s such a good point about its unconventional look at women taking back the kind of power they have been denied.
Thanks! I think I actually expected it to be less thriller-y. For some reason, I thought the serial killer aspect would be more metaphorical but nope! A full-on serial killer!
Funny that we expected different things and met nicely in the middle, to both be somewhat pleasantly surprised!
Where is this novel set? I wondered, based on the author’s name, if there was a larger commentary in the story that says something about the place in which everything happens.
It’s set in Lagos (which is probably what you guessed). I do think the setting is very important (and it definitely affects some of the cultural norms that are a part of the family/story) but it isn’t something that comes up a lot within the story itself. I was going to talk about that in my review but I ended up leaving it out because while place does inform the story, the book itself never talks explicitly about Nigerian culture. The story works if you don’t know anything about Nigeria or if it were set in Toronto.
It does sound original and intriguing, and the cover is great! On the whole, I think I’m happy to allow men to continue to dominate in the field of serial killing though… 😉
[…] My Sister, the Serial Killer – Oyinkan Braithwaite (Anchor Books, 2019) […]
Great review! I had a lot of fun with this one as well, though it’s not perfect and I also didn’t know what to expect either! I loved the weird dynamic between the sisters. I’m very much looking forward to seeing what Braithwaite writes next!
Thanks! It is an interesting look at that sister dynamic. Obviously not ideal but captures that intense sibling loyalty that can exist. I think we’ll definitely be seeing more from Braithwaite!