What is this about?: Korede is forever cleaning up after her little sister, Ayoola — literally, in that she is cleaning up murder scenes after Ayoola kills her boyfriends. And then, Ayoola sets her sights on a handsome doctor at the hospital where Korede works and Korede knows what’s going to happen…
What else is this about?: Keep in mind the blurb says satire below, but this book is about family, and the choices we make — or don’t make.
Satire meets slasher in this short, darkly funny hand grenade of a novel about a Nigerian woman whose younger sister has a very inconvenient habit of killing her boyfriends.
“Femi makes three, you know. Three and they label you a serial killer.”
Korede is bitter. How could she not be? Her sister, Ayoola, is many things: the favorite child, the beautiful one, possibly sociopathic. And now Ayoola’s third boyfriend in a row is dead. Korede’s practicality is the sisters’ saving grace. She knows the best solutions for cleaning blood, the trunk of her car is big enough for a body, and she keeps Ayoola from posting pictures of her dinner to Instagram when she should be mourning her “missing” boyfriend. Not that she gets any credit.
A kind, handsome doctor at the hospital where Korede works, is the bright spot in her life. She dreams of the day when he will realize they’re perfect for each other. But one day Ayoola shows up to the hospital uninvited and he takes notice. When he asks Korede for Ayoola’s phone number, she must reckon with what her sister has become and what she will do about it.
Sharp as nails and full of deadpan wit, Oyinkan Braithwaite has written a deliciously deadly debut that’s as fun as it is frightening.
My Sister, the Serial Killer is a respectable length, but one of the things that struck me as I started reading this is the crisp, efficient prose with which the author describes Korede and Ayoola’s past and present relationship. I genuinely didn’t feel the length of this book, but came away having a clear idea of who these women are and the ties that will always bind them.
Korede is the older sister and everything that comes with that — she is the protector. She protected and protects Ayoola still, and even their mother from who Ayoola is, and at one time, she protected them both from an abusive father.
When the book opens, Ayoola calls her to help her clean up a murder scene — that of Femi, her current boyfriend. Korede helps her, of course she does. But we also learn about the other life she has at her hospital where co-workers irritate her where she has allowed herself to be attracted to Tade, a handsome doctor.
Naturally, that’s when Ayoola comes to visit Korede and she has a front row seat to watching Ayoola and Tade flirt, and start a relationship. And slowly Korede begins to admit to herself just how bitter Ayoola makes her, and has always made her to some extent because as the older sister, she has always looked out for her — from their time as kids, and had to endure their abusive father.
She is also afraid for Tade, because she knows its just a matter of time before Ayoola will kill him. Through the book, that hovers in the air, like an axe waiting to fall.
The relationship between Korede and Ayoola is the kind you’re going to understand all too well — Ayoola is the younger, beautiful sister and the one who can do no wrong. Their mother favours her above Korede as well, so you can well imagine the bitterness and anger that begins to brew when Ayoola sets her sights on Tade. But, at the same time Ayoola is perceptive in ways Korede is not — she sees that men want her beauty and her body, but don’t necessarily want more than that. She manipulates them for her own ends.
And that is a different wake-up call to Korde.
Slowly, the book strips away Korede’s blinders about Tade, and Korede finds herself re-evaluating herself and her relationship with Ayoola again.
The book is a path to the truth of things for Korede, and that path is a wonderfully readable and engrossing examination of these sisters’ relationship, and the family ties that bind them together.