#BookReview My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite @AtlanticBooks @ReadersFirst1

My Sister, the Serial KillerAbout the Book

“Femi makes three you know. Three and they label you a serial killer.”

When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This’ll be the third boyfriend Ayoola’s dispatched in “self-defence” and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away.

She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first. Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating a doctor at the hospital where Korede works as a nurse. Korede’s long been in love with him, and isn’t prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other…

Format: Hardcover (240 pages)          Publisher: Atlantic Books
Publication date: 26th October 2018 Genre: Contemporary Fiction

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My Review

My Sister, The Serial Killer is a short book but for me that just added to its attraction.  I loved its taut style with not a word wasted which created a real energy to the story .

Although her conscience tells her she should, Korede’s sense of loyalty to her sister, Ayoola, makes her unwilling to go to the police. Her mother’s words to her on the birth of her sister, ‘Big sisters look after little sisters’, also echo in her mind. Korede finds comfort in sharing her concerns about her sister’s actions with Muhtah, one of the patients in the hospital where she works. He’s been in a coma for a long time and is deemed unlikely to recover so Korede views her one-sided conversations with him as akin to the secrets of the confessional.

Ayoola seems untroubled by her conscience, having convinced herself on each occasion she was acting in self-defence. She prefers to concentrate on posting on social media, designing clothes and deciding what to wear next.  Basically, she craves being the centre of attention. As Korede observes, ‘Ayoola lives in a world where things must always go her way. It’s a law as certain as the law of gravity’.

Beneath the surface, the reader suspects both sisters’ behaviour has been affected by their childhood experiences. Korede’s passion for cleanliness, even as a nurse, is surely more than just a desire to get rid of germs and Ayoola’s dispatch of troublesome boyfriends is perhaps a replacement for another person she would have liked to have got rid of.

Things come to a head when Ayoola sets her sights on Dr. Tade Otumu, a doctor at the hospital where Korede works and for whom Korede harbours a secret admiration. As well as being a skilled medical practitioner, he’s always cheerful, often singing or whistling as he goes about his duties. In fact, he’s described at one point as ‘a walking music box’ making you understand why not only does he lift the spirits of his patients but Korede’s too. As sisterly affection and loyalty is pushed to the limits, Ayoola sagely warns Korede, “You can’t sit on the fence forever”. 

Set in Lagos, the book provides an insight into Nigerian family life, social customs, food, and so on. I was struck by the fact the family’s house girl is never referred to by name. She’s always merely ‘the house girl’ despite being a constant presence in the family’s life, preparing food, waiting on guests and carrying out a multitude of household tasks.

My Sister, The Serial Killer is a darkly comic novel about the limits of sibling loyalty. I loved its wit, energy and inventiveness, and can fully understand its inclusion on so many literary prize lists, notably the shortlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019 and the longlist for the Booker Prize 2019.

I received an advance review copy courtesy of Atlantic Books and Readers First.

In three words: Clever, witty, accomplished

Try something similar: The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shenayin

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Oyinkan BraithwaiteAbout the Author

Oyinkan Braithwaite is a graduate of Creative Writing and Law from Kingston University. Following her degree, she worked as an assistant editor at the publishing house, Kachifo, and has been freelancing as a writer and editor since. In 2014, she was shortlisted as a top-ten spoken-word artist in the Eko Poetry Slam and in 2016, she was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. (Photo credit: Goodreads author page)

She lives in Lagos, Nigeria.

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