My Sister, the Serial Killer is a novel penned by Oyinkan Braithwaite which follows the lives of Korede and her psychopathic sister Alooya, who makes a habit of ‘accidentally’ murdering her boyfriends. Though the central themes of the novel are associated with that of a thriller, this novel uncovers more than at the surface, delving into a beautifully unique exploration of sisterhood and the burden of familial ties.
Braithwaite’s debut novel has received noteworthy critical acclaim, having been long-listed for the Man Booker Prize and shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction–and it isn’t hard to see why. This novel, taken from an early draft to completion in a mere month, is impressive in a number of ways. Braithwaite’s brilliantly dark sense of humour is only second to the immensely detailed portraits of her characters. The empathy that Braithwaite extends to her protagonist, Korede, is contagious, charming, and captivating throughout. On the other hand, Alooya’s character is the epitome of fun: the kind of character you love to hate. She’s clearly evil, without any remorse for her victims, but Braithwaite reminds us that narcissists can be quite funny too. The ability for Ayoola to proceed to manipulate her way into the perfect situations while Korede struggles to be seen is both frustrating and hilarious. When Korede’s long-term crush, Doctor Tade, sends Ayoola a bouquet of orchids, she responds with disappointment: “I. Really. Prefer. Roses”.
The relationship between the two sisters acts as a one-sided sacrifice in that, in order for one to thrive, the other is forced to wither: Korede in the shadows while Ayoola basks in the light. Whilst covering up her sister’s crimes leaves Korede drained and unable to sleep at night wracked with guilt and shame, Alooya is nonchalant, careless and vain, dancing around her room to Whitney Houston’s ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ in the aftermath of murdering her date, Femi. The parallels run like a thread throughout the novel. When Ayoola is sent an array of gorgeous flowers, Korede retreats to her bedroom which becomes more “devoid of life” than ever.
In an interview since published in The Guardian, Braithwaite sets out her intentions for writing the novel. She told herself: “Forget about the great novel, just write something for yourself that’s fun.” In the process, My Sister, The Serial Killer became a kind of accidental gem. Compelling, fun, and unashamedly unique, this is a book that truly has something for everyone.