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Genre Crime Fiction
Format Kindle ebook
Other Formats Available Hardback, paperback, audiobook
Publication Date November 2018
Length 226 pages
Content Warnings Murder, violence, physical/emotional abuse by a family member, references to sexual exploitation
What It’s About
“You can’t sit on the fence forever.”
Zorede takes the role of older sister seriously. She protects Ayoola. Takes the blame when she gets in trouble. And – quite literally – cleans up the bodies. Ayoola has now killed three of her boyfriends, and, although she pleads self-defence, Zorede is not convinced.
So when Ayoola starts dating the doctor Zorede is in love with, it’s finally time for her to pick a side. With family loyalty stretched to the limit, Zorede questions whether she should continue to defend her little sister – no matter what.
I was grateful for the short, distilled structure of this novel – in no small part because I only gave myself three days to read it before our book club meeting! However, I also found it made the story more powerful, even though some people say they would have preferred more length and depth.
Initially, I did find it difficult to connect with the characters and understand their motivations. Yet the more I read, the more I became invested. Braithwaite uses flashbacks to gradually illuminate the relationship between the sisters and the circumstances that go some way towards explaining their dark deeds.
This clever device enhanced my sympathy for the characters, to a slightly concerning degree, given it would be an understatement to say they’re morally ambiguous!
Once my complex feelings about the characters started fighting for predominance, I became thoroughly immersed. Some elements of the plot were a tad predictable, but others took me completely by surprise.
Ultimately, the unsettling characters were what really caught in my mind after I finished My Sister the Serial Killer. Zorede’s insecurity is something that I am sure many readers can relate to on some level, and it’s portrayed in all its cringing humiliation. Ayoola, though, was the sister I found most fascinating.
I have always been captivated by dark, transgressive, Lady-Macbeth-esque female characters, and in this story, the same was true of Ayoola. Braithwaite presented her character in such an intriguing way and refused to explain her into submission
Diversity and Representation
The two central characters in My Sister the Serial Killer are women of colour. I also liked the realistic representation of female solidarity taken to extremes. After all, women are not a homogeneous group and toxic relationships are possible even in sisterhood.
In an interview with Oyinkan Braithwaite that I read, she explained her resistance to the idea that she had to write solely “about” Nigerian culture – this expectation would never be placed on, for example, someone writing in the UK.
I had never considered this before and appreciated the idea that novelists from non-Western backgrounds should have the same creative freedom, without being under any obligation to defend or explain their culture to potential Western readers.
Beyond the Book
The unsettling level of sympathy I felt for Ayoola and Zorde made me consider how far we are individually responsible for our actions, regardless of the traumas, hardships, or lack of opportunities we may have suffered.
If you’re reading My Sister the Serial Killer as a book club pick, or just looking to ponder the story in more depth, these questions should help get you started:
- Through flashbacks, Braithwaite provides a shocking, traumatic background to the crimes of Ayoola and Zorede. Do you think that a criminal from a background of hardship should be treated more leniently than one from a background of privilege?
- Zorede demonstrates a fierce loyalty towards her little sister. How does our responsibility to our families compare with our obligations to wider society? Would you help your closest family member to dispose of a body!?!
- What was your reaction to the portrayal of guilt in the novel?
“The most loving parents and relatives commit murder with smiles on their faces. They force us to destroy the person we really are: a subtle kind of murder.”~ Oyinkan Braithwaite, ‘My Sister the Serial Killer’
You are looking for a sharp, provoking crime fiction story that places women at its centre.
You can get My Sister the Serial Killer via Amazon UK and Amazon US – or why not try listening on Audible?
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Have you read My Sister the Serial Killer? Do you have any recommendations for female-centric crime fiction? Let me know in the comments – I would love to hear from you!