My Sister, the Serial Killer (Braithwaite)

My Sister, the Serial Killer 
Oyinkan Braithwaite, 2018
Knopf Doubleday
240 pp.

A short, darkly funny, hand grenade of a novel about a Nigerian woman whose younger sister has a very inconvenient habit of killing her boyfriends

"Femi makes three, you know. Three and they label you a serial killer."

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.

Korede has long been in love with a kind, handsome doctor at the hospital where she works. She dreams of the day when he will realize that she's exactly what he needs. But when he asks Korede for Ayoola's phone number, she must reckon with what her sister has become and how far she's willing to go to protect her.

Sharp as nails and full of deadpan wit, Oyinkan Braithwaite's deliciously deadly debut is as fun as it is frightening. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—ca. 1987-88
Where—Nigeria ?
Education—Kingston University (UK)
Currently—lives in Lagos, Nigeria

Oyinkan Braithwaite is a graduate of Creative Writing and Law from Kingston University in London. Following her degree, she worked as an assistant editor at Kachifo, a Nigerian publishing house, and as a production manager at Ajapaworld, a children’s educational and entertainment company. She now works as a freelance writer and editor.

In 2014, she was shortlisted as a top-ten spoken-word artist in the Eko Poetry Slam, and in 2016 she was a finalist for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. She lives in Lagos, Nigeria. (From the publisher.)

Book Reviews
It's Lagos noir—pulpy, peppery and sinister, served up in a comic deadpan courtesy of the narrator…The chapters are brisk…The narration is clean and efficient; the characters lightly sketched. Psychologizing is kept to a minimum…This book is, above all, built to move, to hurtle forward—and it does so, dizzyingly. There's a seditious pleasure in its momentum. At a time when there are such wholesome and dull claims on fiction—on its duty to ennoble or train us in empathy—there's a relief in encountering a novel faithful to art's first imperative: to catch and keep our attention.… This scorpion-tailed little thriller leaves… a sting you will remember.
Parul Sehgal - New York Times

A rich, dark debut.… Evocative of the murderously eccentric Brewster sisters from the classic play and film “Arsenic and Old Lace,…Braithwaite doesn’t mock the murders as comic fodder, and that’s just one of the unexpected pleasures of her quirky novel.… A clever, affecting examination of siblings bound by a secret with a body count.
Boston Globe

A taut, rapidly paced thriller that pleasurably subverts serial killer and sisterhood tropes for a guaranteed fun afternoon.
Huffington Post

Campy and delightfully naughty.… A taut and darkly funny contemporary noir that moves at lightning speed, it’s the wittiest and most fun murder party you’ve ever been invited to.
Sam Irby - Marie Claire

Braithwaite’s writing pulses with the fast, slick heartbeat of a YA thriller, cut through by a dry noir wit. That aridity is startling, a trait we might expect from someone older, more jaded.… But Braithwaite finds in young womanhood a reason to be bitter. At the center of these women’s lives is a knot of pain, and when it springs apart, it bloodies the world.
New Republic

(Starred review) [B]lazing…sharp as [a] knife…The reveal at the end isn’t so much a “gotcha” moment as the dawning of an inevitable, creeping feeling… expertly craft[ed] over the course of the novel. [B]itingly funny and brilliantly executed.
Publishers Weekly

Nigerian nurse Korede's younger sister Ayoola has a bad habit of killing her boyfriend.… A portrait of a dysfunctional family at its finest, this novel shows just how far one woman will go to keep her family safe, even if it costs her everything. —Elisabeth Clark, West Florida P.L., Pensacola
Library Journal

[D]ryly funny and wickedly crafty… psychological suspense.… Even your most extravagant speculations about what's really going on with these wildly contrasting yet oddly simpatico siblings will be trumped in this skillful, sardonic debut.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use our LitLovers Talking Points to help start a discussion for MY SISTER, THE SERIAL KILLER … then take off on your own:

1. Why does Korede continue cover up for her sister, to protect her? What are the justifications she uses to convince herself that Ayoola isn't a serial killer or a monster? Given the sisters' closeness, what would you do in Korede's place?

2. Why does Ayoola kill? Korede wonders whether the knife she carries has somehow cursed her with a violent streak. Is Ayoola cursed? Does she carry the knife for self-defense, as she claims, to protect her against the men to hurt her? Or are Ayoola's murders a product of something else entirely?

3. (Follow-up to Question 2) The girls' father was a violent man—it's his knife Ayoola carries. How might the knife stand as a symbol of the girls' family legacy of abuse and violence?

4. (Follow-up to Question 2 & 3) What are the family dynamics? To what extent have the girls' parents shaped their daughters' different behaviors?

5. How would you describe Korede? As she tells us, "There never seemed to be much point in masking my imperfections. It's as futile as using air freshener when you leave the toilet." What does this comment suggest about Korede's self-identity: her sense of herself and her place in the world?

6. Korede, who lacks the beauty her sister possesses, believes that "love is only for the beautiful." What does the novel suggest about the power of beauty: the privileges and authority it commands, both on a personal level and in the wider society? How do you see the role of beauty in real life—our lives, our society?

7. Talk about the menace and corruption that permeates Lagos, as well as the daily humiliations or sense of entitlement to which its residents are subjected.

8. (Follow-up to Question 7) Consider the incident when the policeman bribes a frightened Korede; she knows that "Educated women anger men of his ilk." How would you describe the place of women in Nigerian society as depicted in the novel?

9. One of Ayoola's boyfriends challenges Korede about her sister: "There's something wrong with her, he says. "But you? What's your excuse?" What specifically prompts his query? And how does, or how should, Korede respond?

10. What was your overall experience reading My Sister, the Serial Killer? The book is considered by most critics/reviewers as "darkly humorous." Do you find it funny; if so, where do you find the humor?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online and off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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