“I am Ayoola from Lagos, Nigeria.
My sister has accused me of committing not one murder, but three. I plead guilty to breaking many more hearts. It’s the same, you can argue. A broken heart is a dead man walking.
Oyinkan Braithwaite has written a presumptuous novel about us, me and Korede, my sister. If she was not a Nigerian, no one would have given a second look to My Sister, The Sister Killer. It is that shallow a story, and as casually told. That Booker Longlist must be some promotional strategy or an accidental entry! Chinua Achebe must be turning in his grave. Is this the best that Nigeria has to offer?
Let me make it clear that I have a small frame, long eyelashes and rosy, full lips. I am someone that men simply cannot resist. I am quite narcissistic and destitute of even a ray of human emotion. The only thing that can move me is the worship of my own merits. I am God’s gift to men of Lagos. Korede is plain-looking even by ordinary standards. All my mother’s hopes are pinned upon me. I aim for the best among men and make them dance to my tunes but do not tolerate even their slightest flaws. You know how men do not take rejections well. They get violent and end up paying the ultimate price. I am always ready. They are predictable and I sort of expect them to come at me. All it takes is a few slashes with a large knife, and they turn into jelly beans. Who should I turn to but my sister in my moments of desperation? She is a nurse after all, and knows how to clean body fluids and other forensic evidences.
Korede is phlegmatic that way. She knows how to grin and bear, and manage situations. In her own words, I could never cook or clean as well as she does. I never mean to but always make Korede insecure. She judges me for every single action of mine. Three alleged murders, and an attempt later, I still walk free. Not because Nigerian police is inept, but because there is nothing to suspect- no witnesses, no evidences. Serial killers do not seek their jealous, unwilling siblings’ help to dispose of corpses and clean crime scenes, but needy baby sisters do. We decisively tamed our father when he tried to send me to some rich man’s chamber. Her cupboard is not empty. It is not just sibling love that keeps her mouth shut. How she wishes my downfall, yet keeps the charade going for fear of herself being implicated.
Mother has high expectations from me. I am to marry a well-placed man and secure our future – mine, mother’s and Korede’s. My sister aims to win affections of some good man someday by her cooking. Longer routes seldom work. Men are easy to hook. Cook something for me too, sister, while you are at it. Meanwhile keep your men out of my sight because I cannot help that they salivate over me even though it is your cooking that’s extraordinary. Meanwhile, please keep off your dull sermons. I know you are not a nun yourself.
I swear I was not aware that you had a crush over that handsome doctor. You never said, and I’m so narcissistic that I could not see beyond him drooling over me. He flattered and pursued me, and I liked the idea of him being head-over-heels in love. Why did you not ask me to back off, sister? Why have you always been like this?
All my killings could well have been represented as merciless, one-sided break-ups. When you asked Oyinkan to compile your litany of complaints, you could have impressed upon her to water down the charges. Ayoola dumping her boyfriends over slightest hints of verbal or physical abuse would have made more sense. But you, Korede, wanted full credit in my stories. Your role as the crime scene manager is what you wanted to advertise. Which is why perhaps this full disclosure and no chance for me to explain!”
The novel raises some basic questions which have not been answered. Can blood/forensics be sufficiently washed off a room or a car boot? What do you do if you are saddled with a loved one who is more endowed and successful than you are in some respects, is completely self-obsessed and and manipulative to the core? What if that person turns against you in a matter of life and death, especially if it is a case of her version versus yours? Should one keep the faith, or keep cultivating alibis and evidences to safeguard oneself in case that person goes rogue?
The novel cannot be classified either as a ‘chick lit’ or as a satire. Despite three murders and body transportation, it has neither slash-fests nor gore. There is no oomph, it is not a whodunit nor even a legal thriller. My Sister…is no literary delight and scores neither in narration, description nor dialogues. Oyinkan Braithwaite must consider herself very, very lucky to be thus feted. Booker should be ashamed of having included My Sister, the Serial Killer in their long list.
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