Bingo 13 (Pajiba)
I noticed recently that this novel could actually qualify for several different squares, but I’ll be using it for Pajiba, where a review was posted 1/24/2019. I’ve had my eye on the title for a while although I’m not quite sure where I first heard about it. I’m not sure what exactly what I was expecting, but I didn’t get it, not even close.
I was not really expecting to enjoy this, firstly because it’s contemporary literary fiction, and secondly it’s written in the first person mostly present. In spite of these two obstacles, I raced through this novel in about 4 hours. It’s that intriguing and well-paced.
The story is told by Korede, a nurse whose younger sister Ayoola is the apple of everyone’s eye. Ayoola has this habit though of killing her boyfriends (3, possibly 4 by the end of the novel) and Korede helps her get away with it. The novel begins with death number 3 and the cleaning/cover up, and it’s pretty clear that Korede is starting to resent her sister’s carelessness and disregard for not only herself and Korede, but also her difficulty is understanding the problems her behavior creates. The other conflict is that there’s a nice handsome doctor at the hospital where Korede works, and she has a secret sersious crush on him. The problem is that she doesn’t seem able to act on her feelings, and as soon as he meets Ayoola, Ayoola is all too ready to accept his attentions. Naturally, this causes tension between the sisters, but also between Korede and Tade at work. She’s torn between the desire to protect her younger sister, but also protect her crush and colleague.
The novel also contains a second thread that weaves in and out of the first. This part of the story looks back on the childhood and adolescence of Korede and Ayoola which shows some disturbing things about the family they grew up in, especially their father. Some of this might help explain Ayoola’s apparent compulsions, as well as Korede’s desire to protect her sister, but as Tade says to Korede at one point, “There’s something wrong with her…but you? What’s your excuse?”
I’m torn about Korede. On the one hand, I think Tade is very much right about Ayoola since she genuinely seems to not understand that killing is wrong, and there is some real doubt that her given reasons concerning self-defense are anywhere close to accurate or truthful. Korede does have the emotional understanding to feel the guilt and also resentment towards her sister, but at the same time she enables Ayoola to continue. On the other hand, they went through some pretty horrific things as girls and young women, and that kind of trauma can really mess people up. Korede tries to deal with her issues by talking about them with Muhtar, a comatose patient in her hospital, and she acknowledges that neither she nor Ayoola really have any friends; she has Muhtar and Ayoola has minions (Korede’s word).
I can’t really dislike either sister, although it’s a little easier with Ayoola who really comes off as kind of bratty. I feel for Korede though, and she’s complex enough that I can’t really decide to be mad at her for bad decisions or to admire her dedication to her family in spite of everything.
Not only are there some great characters in the sense that they are complex and real, but I also really liked how the story was presented in short chapters alternating between youth and now/adulthood for Korede, and how her home and work lives were separate , then a little together, and then tangled up together. I’m pretty sure I’m going to eventually decide this was a good read, but honestly I’m still a little unsure. That in itself is probably a good sign.