This Nigerian set, darkly comic ,feminist novel has such bite, each chapter is sharp, succinct and dripping with atmosphere and culture.
Sisters Ayoola and Korede are being raised by a mother fuelled by Ambien since the death of her husband. Korede is a nurse , Ayoola a fashion designer and social media icon, modelling her designers then making them. One is focussed on the internal workings of people and the other is focussed on appearance ad artifice.
Korede knows she plays second fiddle to Ayoola, has known it since the day her baby sister was brought home from the hospital and was told to look after her. Ever since, their roles have been set-Korede the carer in her part of nurturer gives Ayoola the freedom to embrace everything that Korede herself would run from. Ayoola is fierce, beautiful and unapologetically herself. Whereas Korede is the dutiful daughter raised to cook, clean, house keep and work.
”You know, men are very fickle. Give them what they want and they will do anything for you. Keep your hair long and glossy or invest in good weaves; cook for him and send the food to his home and his office. Stroke his ego in front of his friends and treat them well for his sake. Kneel down for his parents and call them on important days. Do these things and he will put a ring on your finger, fast.”
The above advice is from their father’s twin sister
This is why, when Ayoola kills, she turns to Korede.
Used to cleaning up after her sister, the book begins when another boyfriend of Ayoola’s has died and Korede notes that 3 now makes her a serial killer.
”That’s how it has always been.Ayoola would break a glass and I would receive the blame for giving her the drink. Ayoola would fail a class and I would be blamed for not coaching her.Ayoola would take an apple and leave the store without paying for it,and I would get blamed for letting her go hungry.”
With no one else to talk to ,and her mother focussed on marrying both girls off , Korede has no one to talk to about her fears for his sister, except her patient, who has been in a coma for so long that no one expects him to ever come out of it.
But then Korede falls for a dr at her hospital, just as Ayoola decides to pay her a visit at work and her patient shows signs of waking…
A razor sharp thriller with a wonderful sparse turn of phrase that allows for no superfluous narration, Korede springs from the page , fully formed.
Her battle between doing what’s right and her duty to her sister are so well depicted, and it would be easy to have the 2 women as cardboard siblings but these are living, breathing women with all their subtle nuances and character traits.
It’s a feminist tale told in a patriarchal society and the agency of these two women , especially Korede, is not always immediately obvious but at the end, I had that penny drop moment that had me turning to page one and starting again!