My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

This is the story of two sisters, one a nurse and the other a murderer who kills men that she has dated. Slowly, as the story is revealed we start to see that there is more to this behaviour than we might think.

The father of Ayoola and Koreda is abusive and willing to sell his younger daughter to a man he does business with. Koreda stands up for her for the first time and then never stops. No wonder Ayooda has problems with men. Braithwaite is pushing us as readers and her characters to see how far they would go to stay loyal to a sibling and family.

She is also telling us something about beauty. How Ayooda, who is very beautiful, is always believed, how men behave differently around her and how everything and one else is subservient to her. Koreda, who feels that she is not beautiful, is frowned upon, not believed, who is ordered around by her mother, the doctor she has fallen in love with and the police all for Ayooda’s benefit.

I was interested in the interview Braithwaite gave to the Observer, replicated at the back of my paperback copy of the book. I commend her for writing about what she knows and her Nigerai. I agree with her, there is no writer that can represent every Black person’s experience – Percival Everett’s whole writing career seems to be devoted to disproving the idea of a single representation. Braithwaite’s experience is of being middle class and splitting her time between Nigeria and the UK.

It’s a quick read, written with a light-hearted tone for such a dark subject matter. The murders are described in a tone as normal and unexcited as other events in the story, making them seem quite common place. Ayoola is a fashion designer and so clothes and the impact they have on others are given detailed descriptions as is Lagos and the way police treat people. It is also an interesting point that the item the father uses to beat his children and wife is his traditional stick or cane with its markings. The effect it has on the family is about the present and future and this is very subtle.

Koreda is not without her troubles. There is her misplaced loyalty to her family but also her obession with cleaning – useful with a sister like Ayooda. And she would really like a friend. Koreda uses bleach to cover up murder, Braithwaite uses humour to cover up an abusive father and his impact on his family but neither cover up removes trauma and repeating behaviour.

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