Katia reviews My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
My Sister, the Serial Killer wants you to think it is funny. And the premise might be: the narrator, Korede, receives a call from her sister who has “accidentally” killed a boyfriend-- for the third time. Korede, a nurse, is summoned to clean up the mess, again. Why her sister, Ayoola, seems to find herself in this situation so often is initially unclear, and this ambiguity serves the novel’s dark humor. But very quickly, we begin to realize that this story is deeply unfunny. Korede’s perspective is heavy with sadness and resentment for her sister, horror for her own actions, and an obsession with Ayoola’s most recent slain boyfriend, Femi. Ayoola, on the other hand, is entirely unperturbed, already posting on her snapchat story and looking to date someone new. My Sister is written in short, themed chapters and follows a loose chronology. This format allows the author to place the past and the present almost side by side, drawing parallels from the sisters’ childhood abuse at the hands of their father to their current adult selves. When you discover the kind of cruelty Korede and Ayoola suffered as children, it becomes easy to see why Ayoola has the unfortunate habit of murdering her boyfriends. While Ayoola asserts control over her environment by killing the men in her life, Korede does so by cleaning and organizing obsessively. This habit certainly comes in handy when she has to help her sister dispose of a body. This book is a fascinating dissection of a co-dependent sibling relationship. It is written sharply and beautifully, and Braithwaite keeps you hooked by always withholding the information you are looking for. You want to know why Ayoola kills her boyfriends. You want to know why Korede continues to help her sister even though she might be a sociopath, and you want to know whether or not Ayoola is a sociopath. But ultimately the answers to these questions don’t matter all that much. Instead, the novel asks: how far would you go to protect the person closest and most dear to you? What if you weren’t sure that you really liked them? What if you weren’t certain why you were helping them in the first place? In Korede’s case, she has only one person in the world, and that person happens to be a serial killer. At a glance, it is an interesting thought experiment, but it is also much more than that. At its center, it is a cutthroat exploration of sisterhood, family bonds, and the lasting effects of trauma.