Crime fiction is not an easy one to pull off let alone one that incorporates a chilling and thrilling psychological depth. Oyinkan Braithwaite’s book is about two sisters (Korede and Ayoola) who had an abusive father and grow up resenting their father even after his death. Korede and Ayoola are close but the relationship is more parasitic than it is symbiotic. Korede is always protecting Ayoola. Her protection stems from her constantly having to defend Ayoola from the high-handedness of their father. Also, she protects Ayoola from going to prison as she helps her clean-up her murders. The book begins with Korede rushing to her sister’s aid after she had killed a man. Later on, we discover that this was not her first kill but her third.
Both girls find various ways to release pent up emotions and this affirms Sigmund Freud’s theory that men act out of the depth of their unconscious or what is otherwise called repressed feelings. Hence, Korede’s excessive cleanliness is a way she copes with her guilt and emotional crisis. She also confides in a coma patient in the hospital she works which is her way of releasing emotions that are buried deep inside. For Ayoola, who is narcissistic and self-absorbed begins to kill men which symbolises how she feels towards her father. Both girls show that they are vulnerable and Korede especially is very insecure. Her life seems to be dedicated in being a big sister to Ayoola that she basically has nothing for herself because she lets Ayoola have them all.
Not only is Korede protective of her sister, the author shows Korede as deeply jealous of Ayoola. In describing Ayoola, Korede who is the narrator describes her sister to be the one who walks into the room and gets heads turning into her direction. “Ayoola walks in, and every head turns her way and stays there. I stop where I am, rattle in hand trying to understand what is happening. She looks as though she brought sunshine with her.” All of that charm, and coquettishness that Korede lacked, Ayoola had them in many folds. The twist of the story begins when Tade, a young doctor that Korede had fallen in love with, takes one good look at Ayoola and falls passionately in love with her much to Korede’s displeasure. However, Korede always keeps letting Ayoola have her way. She takes the role of older sister a bit more seriously than she should.
The book does not lack its Nigerianness as both sisters have a mother who is desirous of seeing her daughters get married and constantly drums it into their ears. The language is English but the author brings in Yoruba words into it adding more to the Nigerian flavour. The book has several themes but domestic violence is one that fuels the whole crisis. Two girls and their mother who lived under a draconian father was enough to mess up their psyche. It is important to reiterate the adverse effects that abuse can have on children which still plagues them to adulthood.
It is a beautiful story as it is dark. The dark twists rises more towards the end when Korede still makes the ultimate sacrifice. She sacrifices her love for Tade on the altar of sisterhood. The story gives credence to the popular cliché that ‘Blood is thicker than water.’ The book is not a long one and it is very precise. The characters are very relatable because their experiences are what anyone can relate with e.g.; jealousy, low self-esteem, huge sense of entitlement (which is Ayoola’s trademark), fear, love, hate, desire and passion.
If you seek closure in this story, you may not find it. Maybe that is why its deep realist and pessimistic approach is what makes the story a success. These feelings are not gotten rid of in a day’s work, it takes years to manage or maybe, they never go and become a part of our failed human state which for some/many is irredeemable. Besides, justice never really comes all the time or it is delayed and still denied.
Characterisation is well done and since it is a first person style of narration, we are not exposed to the feelings and thoughts of the other characters. The writing is simple and the choice of words were carefully selected to convey emotions and the reader is fully immersed in it. It is a good book and I strongly recommend that you read it. Well Done, Oyinkan Braithwaite!