My Sister, the Serial Killer

End Date:  February 23rd

Author:  Oyinkan Braithwaite

Published:  2018

Genre:  Fiction

Pages:  240 (hardcover)

Selected By:  Elle Tea

Average Review: Scoring Liked Book

“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.”

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Gigglemug Reviews

Elle Tea:  Scoring Liked Book

So, full disclosure, this was totally an impulse pick.  I’d originally had Becoming in mind for February’s selection but decided against it because I think we’ve done a good job thus far of remaining relatively politics-free here at Gigglemug… so I then set my mind on Spinning Silver only to start questioning whether now might actually be a better time to pick up The Hate You Give… and then the month went all topsy-turvy, full of far too much seriousness and adulting, and at the last second I picked this novel when it appeared on my Goodreads recommendations because it seemed funny, and we all desperately needed a laugh.

I mean… a dangerous duo of sisters, one a free-spirited, lovable, reportedly attractive Black Widow, the other a sober-minded, career-oriented woman who happens to be her sister’s fixer / cleaner?  I imagined a sort of Thelma & Louise meets Pulp Fiction romp through dysfunction and mayhem; sure, we’d inevitably stop in emotionsville – it’s a tale of two sisters, after all – but in the end, the laughs would stand out.  Right?

Who is to say that an object does not come with its own agenda?  Or that the collective agenda of its previous owners does not direct its purpose still? 

Not… exactly.

My Sister, the Serial Killer isn’t actually all that funny.  It has its moments, and the whole idea that beauty overrides sense to such a degree as to allow a murderer to keep on murdering solely because they’re beautiful is mildly amusing – but this would maybe have been more amusing before Casey Anthony pretty much proved… y’know… that one can actually use the “I’m too pretty” defense with successful results.

My Sister is short and quickly-paced, but there’s just not much to it or much new going on within its pages, and, much to my irritation, it ends exactly as it begins – nothing is resolved, nothing is achieved, and for two-hundred pages we are simply watching two sisters, one of whom has the emotional range of a sea cucumber and the mental capacity of a can of lima beans yet seems to be given more opportunities for happiness simply because she’s prettier, and the other who is clearly kinder, smarter, and at least a little less crazy but is also disregarded for not being pretty enough.

There never seemed much point in masking my imperfections.  It’s as futile as using air freshener when you leave the toilet – it just inevitably ends up smelling like perfumed shit. 

But let’s not feel too badly for poor, unattractive Korede.  Yes, there is a tragic backstory to explain just how it is that this household of women – the sisters Korede and Ayoola, along with their mother – ended up living alone and how it is that they and their relationship reached this point.  But in the end, when we meet her, Korede is a grown woman who already possesses the means to better her own situation – she has all the tools at her disposal to do so, in fact, and has plenty of opportunities to make things truly right.  But she’s also a co-dependent doormat who craves approval: she shakes her head at the foolishness of the men who walk into her sister’s web, and yet, knowing how wicked Ayoola truly is, knowing that all of her sister’s sweetness and charm are part of her facade, she does the same thing, responding to every sob, reacting to every little tear that trickles down Ayoola’s perfect cheeks; she swallows the terrible disappointment of knowing that she could never have a romantic chance with a single one of the men her sister has ensnared and oftentimes judges them very harshly for their superficiality, and yet in her interactions with the one man she has the opportunity to actually get to know herself, she defers entirely to everything he says, not even speaking up to defend herself when he berates her soundly for not being more like her gorgeous sis.

And if that still doesn’t get you to snap out of the pity train you’re boarding for poor Korede, let’s not forget that she is still an accessory after the fact who has helped to hide the murders of multiple men, most of whom were guilty of nothing more than being shallow, superficial, and chauvinistic.  Which… while poor characteristics to possess… probably aren’t worth actually being hacked to pieces over.

“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.” 

The award for the most disappointing character in this novel clearly must go to Dr. Tade Otumu, an intelligent, educated, kind-hearted man who has been on friendly terms with Korede since they began working together.  And who, with the fluttering of a few eyelashes and a couple of pouts, does a complete 180 and flips on his Pretentious Jerk switch.

All that being said, I was at a firm two for a majority of this novel and switched to a three-cup review only after some consideration.  All of the things that I disliked most about this novel – the lightness of Ayoola’s skin being integral to her reputation as a great beauty, the deference of the female characters to the male ones, the obvious and open corruption of those in authority, the notion that being able to cook and keep house are so important for a woman if she truly wants to catch a good man…  all of these are things that are just not acceptable from my modern Western viewpoint.  But this is a book about modern Nigerian life written by a modern Nigerian woman, and all of those “what the hell” things that made me sputter and grind my teeth are also things that are still prevalent within their society and culture today (there are numerous articles available pertaining to the far-reaching consequences of Nigeria’s skin-bleaching epidemic).  And, just as I didn’t add any of those grievances to my review at length, I am not going to knock a full cup off of this review because of them, either.

All in all, My Sister, the Serial Killer is a nice read for a day when you want a little something different but, like it’s titular character, you don’t want too much depth.

Elle Tea’s Favorite Character(s):  Muhtar.  This might be because he was so much wallpaper for a majority of the novel… but even once he actively joined the tale, he seemed to be the only character consistently making any kind of sense at all.

Elle Tea read the Amazon Kindle edition of this selection.

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BillMo:  Scoring It Was OK Book

This book was okay. I actually had it at 3 teacups until the end and I thought the end was so dumb I knocked a teacup off. The bad thing is the way the lead character’s personality was is probably the way some real people would probably handle a situation where their sister was a serial killer. To sum it up means an enabling doormat.

It takes a whole lot longer to dispose of a body than to dispose of a soul, especially if you don’t want to leave any evidence of foul play.

After reading the book I feel like Ayoola had something terribly wrong with her where she couldn’t help herself. Her sister Korede even mentions that she has to sit down with her sister to explain the etiquette that when someone is upset you need to stop whatever it is you are doing and give them your attention. It took her THREE hours to explain this. This is not normal behavior. It seemed like there was something wired in her to make her kill people. She needed to be in a hospital preferably one that was all female and was under heavy security. This woman was able to get away with murder with pretty much the excuse of, “I’m too pretty to have killed someone outright”. Well, people can be naive.
Korede was a terrible disappointment. You will cover your sisters indiscretions up forever and never find happiness for yourself. She even thinks, “she will always have me and I will always have her; no one else matters.” This is just awful. You will allow the deaths of innocents to protect one person who does not understand that what she is doing is wrong. Alright that’s cool for you guys but I hope that you are both caught and both get put away. Where Ayoola might go to a hospital under guard you my dear are going to prison. You allowed this to happen and never told anyone or tried to get her help.

He looked like a man who could survive a couple of flesh wounds, but then so had Achilles and Caesar.

You find out they both had a bad childhood a pretty bad childhood but I would hope most or at least some people could turn that in to some good by helping other people get out of situations like theirs. Not murdering and then cleaning up the evidence. Also, I don’t know if in this country if they check people’s search history but Korede would look up some things that if they would check out her search history more questions may be answered. For instance, Googling serial killer and going to one of the victim’s blog all the time might show someone in authority that these individuals should be looked at a little closer. Her doing this on her personal laptop did not seem very smart to me.

I was tempted to pray, to beg that no door be opened as we journeyed from door to lift, but I am fairly certain that those are exactly the types of prayers He doesn‘t answer.

I wanted to like Tade but he proved to be like most men where he was just as superficial as the majority. My favorite part with him was when he called Korede out and said she was worse than her sister. Preach it Tade!

It would be more appropriate to play Brymo or Lorde, something solemn or yearning, rather than the musical equivalent of a packet of M&Ms.

I probably won’t be reading any more books by this author and I won’t be rereading this one. It wasn’t bad but wasn’t to my liking.

More quotes I liked:

Ayoola looks like a Bratz doll and I resemble a voodoo figurine.

I think you have to accept someone into your confidence, and vice versa, to be able to call them a friend. 

Grief can be contagious and I have enough problems of my own.

BillMo’s Favorite Character(s):  Muhtar, who was the only person with redeeming qualities and who happened to also be out of commission for a good portion of the book. He seemed to have a better sense of being a human being than most if not all of the other characters.  I also liked Femi. This shouldn’t spoil too much because you find out in the very first chapter, but Femi is dead for the whole book, so this probably means I’m liking a made-up person (even though they’re all made-up), because some of his personality is just what Korede perceived about him. He was also a poet and you get exposed to some of his poetry. Poor guy just liked a pretty girl with a terrible problem.

BillMo read the Amazon Kindle edition of this selection.

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Lady Esbe: Scoring Great Book

Well, I surely did not know what to make of this when I first started listening. I was intrigued to say the least how Korede became the repetitive accomplice to her sister, Ayoola. I mean, just because she calls, does not mean you become her cleaner? Or does it?

A key theme here is that we see, even in the Nigerian culture, “light is right”. As we often find in the African American culture, the lighter the skin, the “better” the person is. Ayoola is often described as attractive, but mostly because of her skin tone versus an actual beauty. At least, that is what stood out in my mind, that most of the characters in this novel were color struck more than anything. I was more than annoyed with the deference paid to Ayoola in the novel. Maybe it is because I already knew she was a sociopath, but I disliked Ayoola from the start. Everyone notices Ayoola from first glance and actively make Korede feel less than because she is darker skinned. Is she less attractive because she is darker skinned or because she’s not pretty. The author does venture that Korede is displeased with her looks and that she and her mother have similar features. Nothing about the description was truly off-putting. Maybe the beauty mark above her eye? I never really found the answer to that in the novel and feel it was left to our interpretation. I wanted Korede to be as attractive but not noticed because of her sober attitude, but ultimately, I found her to be just as ugly and ridiculous as Ayoola.

Ayoola epitomizes a serial killer in her behavior and attitude. Most serial killers are seemingly normal to the outside world and even desirable, think Ted Bundy. However, the core of her attitude makes her one of the ugliest characters I’ve read in a while. Ayoola is the child that was always doted on by all, including Korede. Another ridiculous contradictory thing about Ayoola is that she is still, ultimately a child. She literally has tantrums. Whether with her sister for not wanting her to chastise her on yet another murder or if a lover deems to point out a flaw, she immediately goes on the offensive, to their death. I wanted to believe Ayoola is a queen at manipulation and I feel that she’s manipulated Korede to believe that she is Ayoola’s keeper. The first call she makes when she takes a walk down her murderous lane, is to her sister. However, this is a privilege that everyone has bestowed onto her. Ayoola asks and Ayoola gets what she wants. Ayoola’s vanity doesn’t stop at her looks, as she actively seeks her sister’s guidance. She assumes that her sister must do her bidding or at the very least protect her no matter the danger or inconvenience to Korede. To displease her is to cause yourself to become a target. If you are a boyfriend anyway.

When we find Korede, is the sober acting head nurse of her hospital. She keeps everyone in line with a stern look or a harsh word when needed. Like many of us, she is a bit disgusted with her peers. You have the obligatory lazy one, the one with poor hygiene and of course the busy body. She handles each in stride and why not? She is the sister and cleaner for her serial killer sister. Initially, I wanted to feel bad for Korede, that she was dragged into her sister’s plots. However, she is an adult and could have easily not helped and left Ayoola to fend for herself. I almost feel like she wants to feel needed and therefore helps. She takes the moral high ground when speaking to her sister and in my head, it’s only speech. She feels disgust and annoyance, but doesn’t do anything to change the situation. She’s come running no less than three times when her sister called for her cleaning services. In essence, I feel like she allowed herself to be subjugated by her sister but mutters about it under her breathe. When will she find a spine with her sister?

What could make Korede push back on her sister’s whims? A man that Korede has a crush on, Dr. Tade Otumu. Tade started off strong by being a charming and kind doctor to his patients and fellow staff members and then turned into a bumbling idiot once he met Ayoola. Korede’s crush is quite cute and his responsiveness gave me hope that she found someone who would treat her well and see her worth, as a woman, not as a nurse, sister or cleaner. Yet, enter Ayoola and Tade get’s stuck on stupid or smitten, if you will. He allows himself to be manipulated by Ayoola and to take his hostility out on Korede, who has been nothing but a true friend to him. In fact, for fear of his safety, Korede does something unspeakable to her. . . warning Tade of the danger of her sister. While she does the unthinkable, it’s not appreciated by Tade and there went my respect for the character.

The only character that I remotely liked was the comatose patient that Korede unburdened herself to. Initially, I liked him because he was an ear for her, even if he couldn’t speak. He was a much needed confidant. *****SPOILER ALERT*****→ Once he awoke, he said everything I wanted to say to Korede. He didn’t mince words and explained what all he heard while comatose. His judgement doesn’t feel like judgment but sage advice from a jaded man. His family moved on while he was comatose and the wonder is, is it because he is harsh or is he harsh because when he awakened, there was only people pulling at him, wanting something from him and not truly caring about his recovery.  I actually was like, “get ‘em” when he began to tell everyone off, including Korede.  ←*****END SPOILER*****

Ultimately, it was a good book, I just didn’t care for the characters. I got some slight insight into the Nigerian culture. However, it would truly suck to be the cleaner unless you too are macabre and deviant. Which, as I judge, I hate that Korede doesn’t have enough of a spine to defend herself to her mother or sister. Ultimately, she opted to come to her sister’s aide. No one forced her hand, so I do believe that she enjoyed participating in the crime in some manner. As Hamlet said, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks”. Get to the end of the novel and see if you agree.

Lady Esbe’s Favorite Character(s):  No one.

Lady Esbe listened to the Random House Audible edition (narrated by Adepero Oduye) of this selection.

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