Title: My Sister, The Serial Killer
Author: Oyinkan Braithwaite
Publisher: Penguin Random House Canada
Publication Date: November 20, 2018
Oyinkan Braithwaite’s debut novel, My Sister, the Serial Killer, draws in readers with its wit and refreshing narrative style. This story shows pain in different forms and examines family ties in a string of murders. Korede, a nurse, is an accomplice in the murders that her sister, Ayoola, commits.
The story starts with Korede cleaning up the murder scene. Ayoola had just killed another boyfriend and we learn that this is the third time. The strength and the sacrificial nature of siblinghood is one major theme of this novel. Korede says: ‘She will always have me and I will always have her’.
As much as she loves her sister and would do anything for her, Korede is burdened by the crimes she helps to cover. No one must know, but she looks for relief, and so finds it in a comatose patient, Muhtar Yautai, in the hospital she works. She tells him about Ayoola’s murders and her part in it and the guilt she harbours. She also tells him about her desire for love. In this part, Braithwaite touches on the importance of human psychology in the aspect of therapy. Muhtar is Korede’s therapist -and ‘…plays the role of a great listener and a concerned friend.’
The manner with which Braithwaite uses the role of an unconscious witness in the story agrees with a certain aspect of psychoanalysis. Jacques Lacan, the French psychoanalyst and psychiatrist, believed that the ears are the only active part of a living but unconscious human being. Muhtar eventually recovers from his coma with the memories of Korede’s confessions therefore, validating Jacques Lacan’s claim.
This story also has a melancholic undertone. The kind only a family with the history of abuse, disrespect, and infidelity can relate to. Braithwaite uses the sisters’ father to show the psychological consequences of abuse. Because of their father’s abuse, Ayoola is insecure and inherits criminal urges. From the book, we see that all the affection in their father is only displayed towards his precious knife, leaving none for his own family. He is a violent man who inflicts physical and mental abuse on his wife and daughters. This is one thing, apart from the murders, the sisters share in– a traumatic past.
Braithwaite successfully depicts the influence of their father’s mental abuse on his daughters and their later consequential actions as adults. Even without adding political history to the story like many Nigerian authors do, Braithwaite makes it quite entertaining and wrapped in dark humour. She looks inward and forces a reflection on the problems of the family, and how broken families can truly distort people’s lives.
Review by Ore Oroge.
Ore Oroge is a poet, writer, avid reader, freelance editor and proofreader. She’s the author of the poetry book, To Be Human. As a budding psychologist, she’s passionate about the human nature and works towards helping people find their true selves. She enjoys talking on psychological issues and aspires to be a public speaker in the field. When she’s not writing, she’s vibing to indie folk or any other good music, learning languages, reading, drawing abstract images, socializing with like minds, or eating chocolate.
Cover image by BBC.