20 | My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

My Sister, the Serial Killer is Braithwaite’s debut novel about two sisters, Ayoola and Korede who live a privileged life in Lagos, Nigeria. Ayoola, the younger of the two, has killed three boyfriends and every time she kills, she calls her elder sister Korede panicking and claiming self-defense. Korede begins to have doubts about Ayoola telling the whole story, and when Ayoola starts dating the doctor from the hospital Korede works at and who Korede has a crush on, Korede begins to realize her sister won’t stop killing unless she turns her in. Her heart is split into two: protect her serial killer baby sister who she has always protected from their abusive father or save the doctor’s life and possibly other men in the future.

One aspect of the novel I really enjoyed was that though this was set in contemporary times with references to social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat (which Ayoola uses to post RIP messages about “missing” boyfriends), Braithwaite integrates Nigerian culture through particular phrasing and descriptions. I don’t know much about Nigeria, let alone any cultural practices or how English in Nigeria sounds but the author did an excellent job of making the novel accessible to English-readers even though the novel is set in Lagos (I did listen to the audiobook version, narrated by Adepero Oduye). The plot is also unusual, as it centers around two young-adult sisters and their complex relationships to men living in a social-media world where deeply patriarchal societal views collide with the internet age of displaying femininity and the male gaze through the screen. Moreover, as typically men are serial killers, it’s interesting to learn how Ayoola and Korede believe in the case of Ayoola being caught, she would be able to leverage of feminity to dispel any accusations. How could a five foot two woman possibly kill a man?

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