Skip to main content

I picked up Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister, the Serial Killer on impulse. I meant to leave Whitelam Books with only a copy of Becoming, but the red-tinted glasses on the cover of this compact novel caught my eye. I read the title — and grinned. I peered more closely at those sunglasses. When I realized that those were the shadows of knives in her lenses, I couldn’t stop myself from picking the book up and returning to the counter.

In My Sister, the Serial Killer, Korede shoulders the burdens of many reserved, efficient women and older sisters. She works hard as a nurse and is an expert cook, but her gorgeous and charming younger sister gets all the attention. No man is safe once he falls for Ayoola — literally. The novel opens with Korede cleaning up her sister’s boyfriend’s blood (TIP: Bleach masks the smell!) and helping dump his body in the same place she dumped Ayoola’s last boyfriend’s body.

Look: Korede is my dream girl. She takes careful notes on her sister’s victims, but she isn’t so cold that she can’t shed a tear at the beauty of that victim’s poetry when she discovers it online. Korede remains calm as she gently tugs at the threads of her sister’s thin explanation of how another man has ended up on the business end of her knife. Korede knows how to remove any stain from any surface, and because she is dependable and organized, Ayoola can afford to be carefree and creative. The sisters’ relationship works — until Ayoola courts the affections of the man Korede likes.

As I gobbled up this novel’s sharp prose, I thought about my relationship to my own younger sister. Like Korede and Ayoola, we have found our parents bewildering and borne witness to their vulnerability. My sister and I have weathered losses together, and we have celebrated with each other. I’d like to think that my sister wouldn’t stab a new boyfriend to death; I would not like to think of the lengths I’d go to protect her if such an incident occurred. Or at least I thought didn’t want to think about that.

One of the delights of My Sister, the Serial Killer is its invitation to root for the sisters at its center. Even through the filter of Korede’s jealousy and frustration, Ayoola is winsome, and Korede’s dry humor and self-assurance render her trustworthy. Her commitment to her serial killer sister is a matter of course. I expected to read a novel that made me feel wicked for enjoying its dark humor. I was surprised to find that the price of admission to this text was a meditation on the fierce loyalty between sisters.

Samantha N. Simpson

Samantha N. Simpson is an English teacher and writer whose essays and short stories have appeared in The Kenyon Review, Prism Review, REAL, Crazyhorse, and Curating Alexandria. She is currently working on a novel about a time travel and grand larceny. She keeps meaning to start a podcast about vegetarianism and schoolgirl crushes. She and her husband live outside of Boston.