Hardcover, 240 pagesExpected publication: November 20th 2018 by Doubleday Books
Satire meets slasher in this short, darkly funny hand grenade of a novel about a Nigerian woman whose younger sister has a very inconvenient habit of killing her boyfriends.
Korede is bitter. How could she not be? Her sister, Ayoola, is many things: the favorite child, the beautiful one, possibly sociopathic. And now Ayoola’s third boyfriend in a row is dead. Korede’s practicality is the sisters’ saving grace. She knows the best solutions for cleaning blood, the trunk of her car is big enough for a body, and she keeps Ayoola from posting pictures of her dinner to Instagram when she should be mourning her “missing” boyfriend. Not that she gets any credit.
A kind, handsome doctor at the hospital where Korede works, is the bright spot in her life. She dreams of the day when he will realize they’re perfect for each other. But one day Ayoola shows up to the hospital uninvited and he takes notice. When he asks Korede for Ayoola’s phone number, she must reckon with what her sister has become and what she will do about it.
Sharp as nails and full of deadpan wit, Oyinkan Braithwaite has written a deliciously deadly debut that’s as fun as it is frightening.
Femi makes three, you know. Three, and they label you a serial killer.
In case you haven’t noticed, Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister, the Serial Killer has been taking the social media scene by storm the past few weeks. And I get it; the cover art is (pardon my pun) killer and the title exudes a certain titillation that will make a reader quickly reach for the book on the shelf. For me, My Sister, the Serial Killer, was an easy, brisk read that I mostly read in one sitting. And I was additionally excited to read it when I realized that the author and I graduated from the same university in England and likely had the same creative writing instructors! The short chapters (some only a few sentences long) created the effect of breezing through the novel at record speed, which is a plus, but it also created a few issues for this narrative.
Oyinkan Braithwaite’s debut novel follows sisters Ayoola and Korede – Ayoola kills ‘em and Korede cleans ‘em up. But this isn’t just a novel about the boyfriends falling like flies; it’s a novel about the trials and bonds of sisterhood, an exploration of childhood abuse and a would-be love story all wrapped up tightly in the culture of Lagos, Nigeria. Now, that’s a lot to try to cram into 240 (not even full) pages, but it can be done; I’ve even seen it done well. Here, I wasn’t mind-blowingly impressed by the execution (again, couldn’t resist!) of My Sister, the Serial Killer. If you’re a reader who puts a lot of weight on pace, you might find that you’re in for a rather jerky ride with this novel. It flowed neither at a lyrically smooth pace nor at a heart-pounding thriller pace. It just sort of jerked from scene to scene with very little, if any, narrative connective tissue to sew the chapters seamlessly together. In short, while it a had a great plot and an ending that did manage to surprise me, it was not written with a lot of finesse. It read, to me, like a very first draft, not quite filled in enough to give us readers an entire picture. It was like a well-done sketch of artistry that hasn’t yet been filled in with color, like the structure of a building that has not yet been painted and offered windows and balconies.
Now, ONWARD to the pros that you’ll find within these pages, because there are several of those. For one, it was a plus that this novel read so fast. While the plotting was jerky, the pace was quick, and that pulls you in to the story fast as you realize that you’re already so deep into it with so little time spent on it. And one of the real gems of My Sisterwas how Braithwaite interlaced the heart-pounding narrative of the killings themselves with the humor of said serial killer’s indifference and feigned naiveté:
There is music blasting from Ayoola’s room. She is listening to Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.” It would be more appropriate to play Brymo or Lourde, something solemn or yearning, rather than the musical equivalent of a pack of M&Ms.
This novel is fully current, with narrative tools and chapter titles like “Instagram.” Ayoola is addicted to SnapChat and Instagram, often being scolded by Korede for posting frivolous updates for her followers when she’s supposed to be mourning her missing boyfriend, whom she herself has killed. Ayoola has forgotten, just that quickly about the fallen men and goes on with her life in a way that baffles her sister – enter The Comedy.
So, while I wished that My Sister, the Serial Killer was better built out as a narrative, there is merit to it as a quick, amusing little read. It all comes down to what you’re looking for on your TBR. If you’re interested in a narrative set in Nigeria, this may be a great pick for you. If you’re looking for lightness and humor, a read you can breeze through easily that still offers some suspense, then you’ve absolutely come to the right place. But, if you’re more in the market for a side of intellectual stimulation with your killer thriller, then you may want to side step this one; you want find a lot of that here. 3 stars. ***
I received an advance-read copy of this book from the publisher, Doubleday, via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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