Hi everyone! Some people might remember that I included Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister, the Serial Killer in my predictions for the Women’s Prize this year. I included it on the list because I was intrigued by the premise but I didn’t necessarily expect it to make the longlist, perhaps due to the fact the plot is quite odd. But I was pleasantly surprised when I found out it was. Set in Lagos, Nigeria our protagonist is Korede, a nurse who receives a phone call from younger sister Ayoola during the night. Ayoola has killed her third boyfriend, supposedly in self-defence, and Korede arrives to clean up the crime scene. However, not long after this Ayoola starts to date a doctor that Korede has secretly been in love with. Not wanting to see him become the fourth victim Korede has a choice to make: does she save the man she loves or protect her sister?
The novel wasn’t what I was initially expecting. The quote on the back from the New York Times begins ‘A scorpion-tailed little thriller’ so I thought this would be a plot-heavy, fast-paced read. Instead, Braithwaite has focussed on the relationship between Korede and Ayoola. This is the heart and soul of the novel, and the strange dynamic they have never failed to interest me. Both are truly terrible people. Korede seems exasperated by her sister but she is essentially Ayoola’s enabler and an accessory to these murders. She is also an unreliable narrator; the reader has no idea whether her descriptions of characters are accurate or whether she is projecting on to them. It was fascinating to try to read between the lines in an attempt to grasp these other people better, away from the sisters’ influence. I did find Korede the more interesting of the two; Ayoola didn’t really stand out for me but this could simply be due to the fact we see events unfold from Korede’s perspective, so we gain a better understanding of what she is thinking and feeling rather than her sister.
Without going into spoilers, Braithwaite adds a red herring into the mix. The plot seems to be suggesting a particular development for a character but at the last minute it’s yanked away. At first I wasn’t sure – I felt the sub-plot with the red herring added nothing – but upon reflection it made the final image of the novel all the more poignant. There are some twists and turns that are quite predictable but I was so invested in the characters that I didn’t really mind.
My Sister, the Serial Killer also contains flashbacks to when the women’s father was still alive. He reminded me of the father in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus; a man beloved by his community but secretly feared and hated by his family. This idea of public vs private, that people reveal or hide different aspects of themselves depending on who is with them is present throughout the novel. Korede and Ayoola are obvious examples but some of the secondary characters reflect this theme too.
Overall, I really enjoyed My Sister, the Serial Killer. There are some darkly comic and tense moments which kept me on edge and I loved to hate these people. So much. Braithwaite’s writing style isn’t necessarily the most complex or ‘difficult’ out of all the Women’s Prize nominees (looking at you Milkman) but I believe she deserves her place on the longlist. This was a really fun, dark, delicious read and I can’t wait to see what Braithwaite publishes next.
My Sister, the Serial Killer is published by Atlantic Books and you can find more information here.