Friday, March 29, 2019

My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

In Lagos, Nigeria, Korede works as a nurse and lives with her mother and younger sister Ayoola. She is fastidious in her job, but doesn't really have any friends due to keeping her sister's secrets and cleaning up her messes, literally. Ayoola's third boyfriend in a row has died, stabbed to death. Ayoola herself is dismissive of the entire thing and claims to have been attacked. Korede cleans up the mess effectively and has to monitor Ayoola's behavior. The one thing she has is a crush on a handsome doctor at her work, but even that comes crashing down when Ayoola just so happens to meet him and catch his attention. Korede must decide if she's going to live her own life or stay in her sister's shadow and clean up her messes forever.

My Sister the Serial Killer is a short novel about the toxicity of family and obligation versus freedom. Korede does what needs to be done without complaint or discussion (at least out loud). She's direct, practical, competant, knowledgeable, and obsessed with cleanliness, all excellent qualities for a homicidal sister to take advantage of. Inside, Korede is much different with a lot of understandable resentment and bitterness. Not only does she have to clean up the grisly messes, but coach Ayoola in how to act in person and online to stave off suspicion. Her one outlet is to confess everything to a comatose patient and just vent out her feelings about everything because she literally has no one else. What keeps her beholden to her sister is familial obligation and a shared trauma about their abusive father that unfolds throughout the novel. 

Ayoola is Korede's opposite in every way. She is a clothing designer who has murdered at least three people. There is always a good reason, but once their bodies are out of the way, she just goes on with her life without sparing a thought to the possibility of being caught. I have no idea what goes through her mind, but her actions are so frustrating, purposefully sabotaging Korede's efforts to keep her out of jail as if to make her work harder. She gets everything she wants only to discard it like garbage when she loses interest. Her mother babies her and blames Korede for all of her shortcomings. It's completely frustrating to see her blithely expecting all of this and being favored over her sister while literally getting away with murder.

The novel is a frustrating read because of the relationships involved, but it's well written with complex characters. The setting in Lagos played a large part. Even though their father was awful and abusive, they are expected to have a party to remember him every year. The cultural traditions is lovely for someone well remembered, but seems like salt in the wound to celebrate an abuser. The police are portrayed as corrupt and easily swayed by bribery or stroking their ego. Even though the ending was a bit disappointing to me, I understood why the choice was made. My only criticism is some predictable elements in the story. Other than that, I enjoyed the short novel and I look forward to more from Oyinkan Braithwaite.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

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