"My Sister, The Serial Killer" by Oyinkan Braithwaite
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithewaite, is one of my favorite unusual airport bookstores finds. It’s an exceptionally aptly named novel that follows our protagonist, Korede, as she helplessly watches her beautiful sister, Ayoola, end up in relationships with man after man, only for them to come to an untimely end.
Airport bookstores aren’t really known as the place you go to find great fiction. They have a bit of a “buy People Magazine and a book of motivational quotes, all for the competitive price of $299.99!” reputation. As someone who used to work at an airport and spent a lot of time browsing on my breaks, however, I’d argue that the bookstores are really more of a mixed bag. Those books of motivational quotes are certainly there. Still, you also get your top ten bestsellers, a handful of classics sprinkled in, and lots of shelves of GET RICH QUICK! Books that I don’t recommend reading past the title.
Once in a while, though, if you’re lucky, you might run across something nice and weird.
Well, perhaps “helplessly” is the wrong word. Korede does spend an awful lot of time helping her sister hide the bodies, after all. What are sisters for?
I really enjoyed My Sister, the Serial Killer. It’s a dark comedy novel that uses a classic horror storyline: the killer is here, she’s very close, and she’s someone I care about. It’s a funny look into the relationship between the two sisters as they navigate life and how to deal with that deeply inconvenient homicide problem Ayoola has.
This becomes a bigger problem when Ayoola starts dating the man Korede has feelings for.
And he’s a doctor, too!
I don’t think I’m giving away a major spoiler by saying that you know exactly what direction this is heading the minute you are introduced to Korede’s crush. It’s a trope we’re undoubtedly familiar with, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. A good writer can make a classic trope work, and Braithewaite is a good writer. She put together a fun and funny story with characters that hold your attention. What makes it interesting is that the story isn’t really about Ayoola’s relationship with men or how their bodies keep ending up six feet underground. It’s really about Korede’s relationship with Ayoola and how protecting her sister ruins her life.
What makes this story interesting is always looking for a place where the reader can empathize with the protagonist. In Pet Sematary, it was watching Louis’s life spiral out of control. In Bag of Bones, it’s Mike’s intense loneliness and grief. In My Sister the Serial Killer, it’s the eternal conflict between loyalty and morality.
Any older siblings out there? Any parents? Anyone with a friend who you love but cannot justify the decisions they make? This is another emotional conflict that is almost inherent in being a social animal.
The fact that Korede’s moral quandary involves protecting a serial killer, however, is pretty unfortunate.
Here’s where the story gets interesting: is Ayoola just a sociopath? Maybe, maybe not. She certainly shows the superficial charm we might associate with that sort of character. Still, as you learn more about her past, the question gets a lot grayer. There’s a little more to it than loyalty that keeps Korede protecting her sister. Ayoola is a far more complex person than you are initially led to believe.
It’s a fun novel written in short, once scene chapters that you want to keep reading. I enjoy it, and I hope you do, as well.