My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

mysistertheserialkillerMy Sister, The Serial Killer is a story set in Nigeria’s corrupt system of law and order. It’s a mix of humor and mystery and tackles societal expectations, relationships and kinship. It follows the story of Korede and her younger sister, Ayoola. Korede is plain, pragmatic and reliable while Ayoola is beautiful, charismatic and manipulative. Ayoola has just killed her boyfriend, again, her third victim, which now makes her a serial killer. Korede thinks it odd that Ayoola is carrying a knife but then just keeps quiet about it and helped her sister clean the mess at hand.

It is a short read, you can finish it in one sitting. It is written in short chapters alternating between the past and present, which I really liked as I get to know about the previous murders. Oyinkan Braithwaite is skillful in transitioning between different periods of time. Moreover, I liked how her characters were examined without revealing too much which allows for moments of surprise. Korede confides to a comatose patient in the hospital where she works for. It’s somewhat an unlikely relationship but this shows Korede’s sense of isolation from the people around her.

While the story’s language is simple and the chapters are short, there are multiple layers to this story which will keep the reader captivated. I somehow struggled with the absence of a character to like or love. I also didn’t connect emotionally to the novel and this resulted to somewhat an unsatisfying read but I must say, I was never bored in the story itself.

The ending might surprise some but it makes the most sense if you noticed the author’s clues throughout the story.

Quotable Quotes:

“She does not cry for me,” he says, his voice hardening. “She cries for her lost youth, her missed opportunities and her limited options. She does not cry for me, she cries for herself.”

“Is there anything more beautiful than a man with a voice like an ocean?”

“Love is not a weed, It cannot grow where it please…”

“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.”

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin

thesecretlivesofbabasegiswivesThe Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s wives, as the title implies, is the story of Baba Segi’s four wives. Baba Segi is a wealthy businessman from Nigeria. He strongly believes that the number of wives and children (sons most specially) a man has is the measure of real manhood. You’d laugh at how obsessed Baba Segi was in planting his seeds to his wives. Ha!

Baba Segi’s wives all live with shocking secrets. I will not spoil them for you, of course, but let me introduce the four wives. The first wife is Iya Segi. Being the first wife, she is the queen. She loves money and that makes her an accomplished businesswoman. The second wife is Iya Tope. She’s quiet and dismissive, she doesn’t mind Iya Segi calling the shots at home. She’s just happy taking care of her daughters. Iya Femi is the third wife and though I don’t like her, I find her character very interesting. She loves plotting revenge on people, she enjoys it and she’s happy when people are miserable. Then comes Bolanle, the fourth wife, the only educated wife of Baba Segi. The youngest and somehow Baba Segi’s favorite until it turns out that she’s barren. Baba Segi turned against her until the secrets started to come out. It wasn’t really surprising anymore if you’ve focused on the wives’ stories but I could imagine how each revelation was so shocking and painful for Baba Segi.

This book gives us a good view of life in Nigeria specially for women. Women who may be different from many of us and the life we’re living but they are also humans who have wishes and dreams, big and small. It’s saddening to read about the polygamous kind of marriage that exists there and the role of women as wives most specially their “obligation” to conceive a male heir. And if you can’t, you’re good for nothing.

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives is a wonderful book. There’s a roller-coaster of emotions while I was reading it. It’s beautifully-written and the characters were well-drawn. Lola Shoneyin did a good job in engaging and captivating the readers.

Quotable Quotes:

“The choices we have to make in this world are hard are bitter. Sometimes we have no choices at all.”

“Men are nothing. They are fools. The penis between their legs is all they are useful for. And even then, if not that women needed their seed for children, it would be better to sit on a finger of green plantain. Listen to my words. Only a foolish woman leans heavily on a man’s promises.”

“A real woman must always do the things she wants to do, and in her own time too. You must never allow yourself to be rushed into doing things you’re not ready for.”

“Don’t think I can’t see the challenges ahead of me. People will say I am a secondhand woman. Men will hurt and ridicule me but I won’t let them hold me back. I will remain in the land of the living. I am back now and the world is spread before me like an egg cracked open.”

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré

thegirlwiththeloudingvoiceThe Girl with the Louding Voice is Abi Dare’s debut novel and wow, what an amazing debut!

This is Adunni’s story, a fourteen-year-old girl from the small village of Ikati in Nigeria who wants a proper education and a louding voice. She lives with her alcoholic father and two brothers. Her mother was the breadwinner of the family and wished for Adunni to be able to attend and finish school but she soon passed away. At the wake  of her mother’s death, her father married her off to a rich man named Morufu to be his third wife in order to collect the bride-price. A series of events occurred while she was married to Morufu and soon a tragedy, which forced her to flee. She then found herself in Big Madam’s mansion in Lagos working without pay and beaten everyday.

Adunni is one unforgettable character. She is one of the many girls around the world who didn’t have the privilege to study and learn. She is one of the many child brides. Abi Daré incredibly gave life to Adunni’s voice. Adunni speaks broken English as the story started and I liked that the author wrote it this way and showed us how Adunni’s English progressively changed throughout the book. She eventually developed her English as she begins to study in secret.  Adunni later realized in the story that English is just a language like many others and that the ability to speak good English is not the measure of an intelligent mind.

I enjoyed this book so much. There were many parts in the story that were truly sad but I loved her character so much because although she faced a lot of trials and hardships, she refused to give up, she never once lost faith. She was always positive and hopeful that someday, she will be that girl with the louding voice.

Quotable Quotes:

“You must do good for other peoples, even if you are not well, even if the whole world around you is not well.”

“That day, I tell myself that even if I am not getting anything in this life, I will go to school. I will finish my primary and secondary and university schooling and become teacher because I don’t just want to be having any kind voice… I want a louding voice.”

“I want to tell her that God is not a cement building of stones and sand. That God is not for all that putting inside a house and locking Him there. I want her to know that the only way to know if a person find God and keep Him in their heart is to check how the person is treating other people, if he treats people like Jesus says–with love, patience, kindness, and forgiveness.”

“Who knows what else tomorrow will bring? So, I nod my head yes, because it is true, the future is always working, always busy unfolding better things, and even if it doesn’t seem so sometimes, we have hope of it.”

“When you get up every day, I want you to remind yourself that tomorrow will be better than today. That you are a person of value. That you are important.”

Rating: 5/5 stars

Stay With Me by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀

staywithmeYejide and Akin have been in love with each other since they first met in the university. After several years of being married though, Yejide has never gotten pregnant until one day, her in-laws brought a younger woman in their home and proposed that she be Akin’s second wife in order for them to have children. Yejide was pressured to get pregnant or else, she would have to share her husband with another woman.

Told in alternating views of Yejide and Akin, the book is a very honest story of love, marriage, grief and loyalty. The characters aren’t really very likable but they were written well.

It is also always very fascinating to learn more of cultures that are very different from my own and in this book Nigeria’s traditions and beliefs, more specifically the Yoruba people.

I liked Ayobami Adebayo’s writing. She has shown that her writing talent is very much beyond her years. For this, I’m adding her to my list of authors whose works I very much look forward to.

This is not a hopeful book I must say but something that will stay with me for a long time.

Quotable Quotes:

“If the burden is too much and stays too long, even love bends, cracks, comes close to breaking and sometimes does break. But when it’s in a thousand pieces around your feet, that doesn’t mean it’s no longer love.”

“So love is like a test, but in what sense? To what end? Who was carrying out the test? But I think I did believe that love had immense power to unearth all that was good in us, refine us and reveal to us the better versions of ourselves.”

“I understand how a word others use every day can become something whispered in the dark to soothe a wound that just won’t heal. I remember thinking I would never hear it spoken without unravelling a little, wondering if I would ever get to say it in the light. So I recognise the gift in this simple pronouncement, the promise of a beginning in this one word.”

Rating: 4/5 stars