My Sister, the Serial Killer

My Sister, the Serial KillerMy Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Publisher: Doubleday
Released: July 17, 2017
Pages: 226
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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, quote, 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 the doctor 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...

My Sister, the Serial Killer is a wonderful, wonderful, book. After all the hype around The Silent Patient, and the let-down I felt after reading it, I was sceptical toward what could have been another overhyped literary blockbuster (Bookbuster? Is that coined yet?), but My Sister, the Serial Killer really delivers on what everyone seems to be saying about it.

From the outset it’s clear that this is the kind of story where a lot of drips of narrative will eventually create something much larger, and the style of the book leans into this. It doesn’t have a continuous narrative, just very short chapters that tell of individual events in the life of the main character, Korede. Some events are small, almost banal, while others are hugely significant. Some are present day, others are flashbacks. Together they make up a story which is quite simple, but ambiguous and just about absurd enough that you never can tell what might happen next. The characters of both Korede and her sister are really interesting, and while their personalities are laid out pretty clearly, and what you see is mostly what you get, there are undertones and nuances in both of their characters which make them very hard to pin down. As the book ends you are left with the feeling that you do know them, and that you aren’t technically wrong about who they are, but that you nevertheless don’t fully understand them or their actions. Once the book has ended you’re left with a satisfying understanding of why you can’t possibly fully understand the characters, or the choices they’ve made.

The book is wonderfully written, and everything from the characters to the surroundings jump off the page. It’s funny in a sometimes dark, sometimes absurd, and sometimes just outright comical way. It’s not a light book, but it’s an easy read – a combination which seemed effortless when I was reading it, but must be so hard to get right. The style feels contemporary and modern in a way which is different from pretty much everything else I’ve read, but I never got the feeling that the book was trying to be different for the sake of it. The book just feels… right.

This is a book I’d unreservedly recommend to everyone. It has a bit of everything. It’s interesting, challenging, entertaining, and is written like a big, colourful, vibrant, tapestry that can be enjoyed from a distance, but which has so many interesting and curious details once you study it up close. My Sister, the Serial Killer is just a really great book.

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