Though the title of Oyinkan Braithwaite’s debut novel may make you think it revolves around a woman’s habit of killing, My Sister, the Serial Killer focuses more on the relationship of two Nigerian sisters. It’s about their dynamic, why their dynamic is the way it is, and the events that occurred in their lives to shape that dynamic.
Korede, the older, more practical and serious sister, steadfastly protects her sister, Ayoola, young, beautiful, without a care in the world, even when Ayoola commits the heinous crime of murder. Even when this is Ayoola’s third murder and there seems to be little intention to make it the last murder. Even when Ayoola shows absolutely no regret for her actions. By the time we meet the sisters and learn of the newest murder, Korede and Ayoola have established a bit of a routine: Ayoola attracts a man, he courts her, she murders him, she calls her sister to clean the crime scene and dispose of the body. It’s all fairly cut and dry until the day Ayoola attracts the attention of a man Korede is hopelessly infatuated with. Then Korede must decide if she wants to protect her sister or the man with whom she shares an unrequited love.
My Sister is a pretty easy read. The chapters, none longer than 5 pages, ping pong between the present day and the past, where we get insight to Korede’s and Ayoola’s troubling childhoods. There is very little detailed provided, but you still get the gist of what the girls experienced. As a result of their troubling upbringing, Korede takes her role of big sister seriously and knows she must protect Ayoola at all costs. Sisters are forever. A quote from Korede reads, “Ayoola was my responsibility and mine alone.” Touching words from a murder accomplice.
Honestly, this was a pretty boring read for me. I think the author had great intentions letting the book be moreso about the sisters’ relationship than Ayoola’s murderous habit, but the murder part of the story would have appealed to me much more. I could tell from the beginning that the reason Korede went along with helping her sister go through life killing men was because she thought it her duty to look after her sister. The duty placed on her the moment she became a big sister. Why else would anyone knowingly allow someone to kill without impunity? Korede doesn’t even try to stop Ayoola from killing the men, she doesn’t even try to understand her sister or get her help. She’s just as complicit in the murders as her sister. Korede’s reasoning for helping her sister just felt like common sense once I was done reading. Once I got to the end, I just didn’t feel as if anything noteworthy had been said by saying that sisters’ bonds can be so strong that they will even allow murder.
I did appreciate that the chapters were short; it made getting through the book easy, which I was grateful for since the plot wasn’t that captivating to me in the first place. Other than that I can’t definitively say I enjoyed much about this book – the most interesting potential aspect of it, in my opinion (Ayoola’s compulsion to kill), wasn’t even addressed. The whole book just fell flat to me.
If you enjoy reading about wacky, murderous sisterly relationships, or if you just enjoy reading work by African authors, by all means, give My Sister a try. If you’re looking for a thriller that’s actually thrilling, or just… you know, not disappointing, you’d have better luck looking elsewhere. This book wasn’t necessarily outside of my comfort zone aside from being written by an African author – I’m more likely to read books along the lines of thrillers and murder mysteries than anything else – but in terms of thrills and mystery and murder, My Sister, the Serial Killer is a dud.