Mar 30 2019

My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

This was so great.

Told in short, easily digestible chapters that skip between past and present, My Sister, The Serial Killer is narrated by Korede, a nurse in Lagos whose younger sister is developing the unsettling habit of killing off her boyfriends. The first death had a panicked Ayoola begging her meticulous older sister to come to her rescue. Korede had never liked that boyfriend anyway, but that was beside the point: Ayoola needed protecting, and Korede has never failed in providing that, or valiantly trying anyway. But by the time the third boyfriend shows up dead, Korede is starting to wonder whether her beautiful, frivolous sister is truly the victim she keeps claiming to be.

Things come to a head when Tade, the doctor Korede is too reticent to admit she loves, meets and falls head over heels for Ayoola. Korede is torn between her loyalty to her family and her own hopes and dreams… but perhaps the decision to expose Ayoola will be taken out of her hands by circumstances well beyond her control.

This was not only a really terrific look at modern Nigeria, its heritage and customs, but also a sharp commentary on the complexity of gender relations and family ties. I’m still not sure how I felt about that ending. Korede is almost desperately lonely throughout the book, and it certainly didn’t look like that was going to change by the end of it. I wanted her to find happiness, but that’s a sign of Oyinkan Braithwaite’s talent: that Korede’s uncertain future is still an acceptable, and wholly plausible, fate. It’s honestly hard to believe that this is a debut novel. It’s so well written, so well constructed that it feels like the effortless work of an experienced master of the field. Ms Braithwaite is definitely an author to watch.

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