My Sister, the Serial Killer

My Sister, the Serial Killer

A Refreshing New Take on Sibling Rivalry

By Oyinkan Braithwaite
Penguin Random House
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If the title of this gem of a book doesn’t draw you in, the first chapter made up of two sentences will. “My Sister the Serial Killer” by Nigerian author Oyinkan Braithwaite is a delicious and disturbing novel that takes place in Nigeria and is comprised of what will become one of modern fiction’s most quirky characters – Ayoola- younger sister to narrator Korede. Ayoola is the favored daughter, simple, unambitious, spoiled and beguiling. Her beauty is mesmerizing, with men constantly falling under her spell. The impact of her allure is not lost on her and she takes full advantage when the situation warrants. Despite this, she is not without her flaws, least of which is the nasty habit of killing men she dates, for one reason or another. There, literally to cover up the mess is big sis Korede, who undeniably has a love-hate relationship with her sibling, painfully aware of their striking differences. Everything Ayoola is, Korede is not. She is plain, not stunning; smart, hardworking and kind. Although she loves her sister and is protective, she is also irritated by her obtuse demeanor and narcissism. She tries desperately to keep Ayoola her from her work at the hospital of which she is a managing nurse. She has a crush on her doctor-boss, but does not have the confidence to seriously pursue. The last thing she wants or needs is baby sis to come into her work world, diminishing her chances with Dr. Tade who she knows would fall under her spell, like every other man.

“I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I realized that Ayoola was beautiful and I was … not. But what I do know is that I was aware of my own inadequacies long before. Rumor has it that she was asked out on her first day by a boy in SS2. It was unprecedented. She said no. but I received the message loud and clear.”

Both in their 20s and still single, they live with their mother who is blissfully unaware of her youngest daughter’s disturbing ways. To her, Ayoola is desirable prize she gave birth to. She sees her as destined to, if not greatness, a great marriage, showered in wealth and appreciated for her attractiveness. In many ways, Korede seems to be more of a mother than her mother. She is the most aware and sane of the family. A role she seemed to embrace even before her father’s “untimely,” yet not necessarily unwanted death. He was a cheating husband and an abusive father, which may or may not have led to Ayoola’s deadly ways, and the dysfunctional threesome that the family has become. Since Ayoola’s murderous ways seemingly impact Korede more deeply, to what extent can Korede believe these killings are justified and far will her loyalty go? Likewise, can Ayoola trust her big sister completely and forever? The only person Korede can confide in and unburden herself of guilt is to a comatose patient, Muhtar.

“Femi makes three, you know. Three and they label you a serial killer.” I whisper the words in case anyone were to pass Muhtar’s door. In case my words are to float through the two inches of wood and tickle the ears of a passerby. Aside from confiding n a comatose man, I take no risks. “Three,’ I repeat to myself.” Last night I couldn’t sleep, so I syopped counting backward and sat at my desk, turning on my laptop. I found myself typing serial killer into the Google search box at 3 a.m. There it was: three or more murders … serial killer.

“My Sister the Serial Killer” although well-written and captivating, is not lyrical and high literary fiction, but it is a smart, fun dark comedy. It succeeds in its conciseness and decorum. It’s not overreaching and it’s not trying to be anything other than what it is, taunting and daring the reader every step of the way. Wrapping up at just a bit over 200 pages, each chapter is short and intoxicating, like taking a tequila shot and making for a quick entertaining read. This refreshingly inventive, can’t-put-down novel is crying out to be the next binge-worthy mini series on a streaming outlet nearby. You heard it here first.

Paula has worked as a journalist/producer for outlets such as CBS Radio, ABC Radio, and a film and theater reviewer for the Detroit Metro Times. She currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area working as a freelance journalist, website writer and documentary filmmaker.