My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite is a crime novel that quickly draws you into the story and has you looking closely at how far you would be willing to go to help a family member.

Korrede is just sitting down to dinner when she gets a frantic phone call from her sister, Ayoola, desperately needing her help. Rushing out of the house, Korrede hopes that her sister hasn’t done what she thinks she has done. Ayoola, Korrede’s younger sister, has a rather inconvenient habit of killing her boyfriends. She always draws Korrede into the mess, asking her to help her cover up the crime.

Korrede is bitter. Ayoola is her younger sister and clearly her mother’s favorite. Ayoola is beautiful and can get any man to love her. Men flock to Ayoola and she always has a next man lined up.

Helping her sister through all her problems, Korrede is still hopeful that eventually Ayoola will stop and change. Korrede’s saving grace is her job as a nurse at a local hospital. While some of the people that she works with get on her nerves, Korrede looks forward to working with the kind and very handsome doctor who treats her as an equal. She hopes that one day he will realize that they are perfect together.

All of Korrede’s hopes are shattered the day that Ayoola stops by the hospital uninvited and catches the attention of the doctor. They instantly connect and Korrede is forced to deal with Ayoola’s past. She needs to figure out what to do before Ayoola slips and attacks the doctor.

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Labor Day by Joyce Maynard

They were just six days at the end of a miserably hot summer. Yet to 13-year-old Henry those six days will change everything about his life in Labor Day by Joyce Maynard.

For Henry, the days pass monotonously – his emotionally fragile mother Adele has mostly checked out of life, rarely leaving the house. His father has a new family on the other side of town. Henry, lonely and awkward, and at that stage when you know so much and yet so little, just wishes something would happen. And then, Frank, bleeding and limping, walks into their lives. Henry has no idea how different he will be in six days. He will learn how to bake a pie, how to throw a baseball, the pain of jealousy and betrayal, and the power of love. Those six days will shape him into the man he will become.

Frank is an escaped prisoner who has been serving time for murder who seeks sanctuary with Henry and his mother. He is kind and thoughtful and soon Adele and Frank fall in love. They make plans to escape together to Canada. Henry struggles with this new person in their lives – relief that he is no longer the only person responsible for his mother’s happiness, fear that he’ll be left behind.

Narrated by Henry as an adult looking back on those six days, you hear the angst of the teenager softened by the perspective of time. It is written with simplicity and eloquence and a sympathetic understanding of the emotional complexity of people. The extended epilogue –  particularly the last sentence – brings the story to an especially yet realistic satisfying conclusion.