My Sister, the Serial Killer

One of the novels included in the 2019 Booker Prize Longlist that caught my eye was Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister, The Serial Killer.  The title alone was enough for me to want to read it.

The story revolves around Nigerian sisters Korede and Ayoola, who are very different yet similar to each other.  Korede, the elder sister, is responsible, sensible, plain looking, and a hardworking nurse, whereas Ayoola is impulsive, shallow, a fashion designer, and beautiful.  Needless to say, owing to their differences, specifically, their physical attractiveness, society (including family, friends, colleagues, and every other person they came across) has always treated them differently.  In other words, Ayoola can get away with just about anything, while Korede is left to clean up (figuratively and literally) her sister’s mess, including, disposing he bodies of her murdered ex boyfriends.  Korede struggles to defend and justify her sister’s actions and to keep her cool in the face of impending police investigation while trying to start a meaningful relationship with the love of her life and confessing her sister’s heinous crimes to a comatose man in her hospital ward.  Meanwhile, Ayoola is posting selfies on Instagram and singing to “I Believe I Can Fly.”

The novel’s format and writing style are what sets it apart from “traditional” novels. Specifically, the chapters are very short, the shortest being no more than the words:

Ayoola summons me with these words – Korede, I killed him. I had hoped I would never hear those words again.

This is the opening chapter, which sets the mood of the entire novel.  Through a disjointed and nonlinear narrative, readers will get a sense of the sisters’ personality and purpose in life, their family background, which is equally compelling, maybe even more so than the premise of the central plot, their struggles, and conscience (or lack thereof).  On the surface, the novel mainly centers on Korede and her increasing fear and insecurities; however, underneath, it brings to light the pervasiveness of child and domestic abuse in patriarchal societies as well as the roles of women in such structures.  Moreover, it presents the all-too-familiar toxic culture of people living in developing countries. Despite its dark undertones (it IS about a series of murders, after all), My Sister, the Serial Killer is surprisingly funny and astute in its presentation of modern society, which is governed largely by the Internet, specifically, social media.

Although I enjoyed this novel owing to its dark humor and unique narrative style, I don’t think that it is an exceptionally memorable book.  The book leaves much for readers to ponder but contains no incredible element that would mark it as a great literary work.  If anything, its most important accomplishment is introducing the author to the world, who I feel has remarkable talent and potential.  I look forward to reading her future novels even though this one fell short of my expectations.


My Sister, the Serial Killer (2017) – Oyinkan Braithwaite

Anchor Books; 226 (tpb)

Personal rating: 2.5/5



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