It's been a minute since I shared some of the books I've been reading so I am doing a book club DOUBLE-WHAMMY: My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite and The Familiars by Stacey Halls.
On the surface, they are TOTALLY DIFFERENT! One is about a pair of Nigerian sisters, one of whom can't seem to stop murdering her boyfriends. The other is a historical fiction about a British noblewoman with a tenuous pregnancy and a midwife who is probably a witch. There is, however, one similarity: they are both books about very ordinary people who are connected to very extraordinary people who need their protection.
As always, spoiler alert! SPOILER ALERT! There will be spoilers. I won't give away the endings, but if you think knowing things that happen beyond page 3 is a spoiler, then wait for it.
All I knew when I started reading The Familiars is that it was about witches and their animal familiars, so I kept expecting the protagonist (named, of all things, Fleetwood Shuttleworth - that's two last names, right?) to suddenly discover that she had extraordinary power, as is the way of most books about magical people.
It was sort of a pleasant surprise that she didn't. Instead, her struggle was to protect her probably-a-witch midwife from some witch-hunting being done around her while navigating a very annoying patriarchy. It's interesting to see where she is able to use her status as a noblewoman to get what she wants and where it's meaningless to help her as a woman standing in the way of a man's advancement.
For example! There is a chilling moment when she pushes back against the man running this witch hunt (a friend of Fleetwood and her husband's, of course), suggesting that some of the women may be innocent. He, in turn, suggests that his informant (a child, of course) can always be pressed to remember more witches and that another noblewoman has already been arrested.
There is also some very annoying stuff with her husband where he is a total cad and then I think we are supposed to forgive him, but it really just shifts his cad-like behaviour partially onto someone else. UGH! Again, you get a pretty clear picture that Fleetwood doesn't like it, but that she is working within her limits as best she can.
All-in-all, it's truly a well-crafted story. I love how we experience the probably-a-witch midwife from Shuttleworth's perspective the whole time, and so we never get a 100% witchy moment. What we do get is Shuttleworth's total faith in and devotion to the one woman who has made her pregnancy bearable and asked some very good questions about the men around her.
My Sister, the Serial Killer is so good! Seriously. Loved it. It's a quick and fun read about sibling rivalry and devotion and I fully intend to check out other work by Oyinkan Braithwaite after reading it.
Here we have a straight-laced, responsible, supposedly less-attractive woman named Korede who can't stop comparing herself to her sister Ayoola, a free-wheeling fashion designer who every man seems to fall desperately in love with. Before she kills them, of course.
The story comes from Korede's perspective as she helps her sister clean up her messes (literally, she is an obsessive cleaner and when we meet her she already has enough experience to know exactly what she needs to do to clean up a murder scene). Half the time she is trying to keep Ayoola away from the doctor she is crushing on, and the other half she is trying to keep her sister from accidentally giving herself away as a murderer.
The straightforward storytelling makes the atrocity kind of hilarious, and the sibling rivalry appeals to me as a middle child.
Read it on the beach!
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