Monday, July 18, 2011

Book sixteen: The Sisters Brothers by Patrick Dewitt.

This just in from the "judging-books-by-their-covers" category.  I actually chose to read The Sisters Brothers by Patrick Dewitt largely based on the design of the cover.  I saw it on a Web site and was immediately drawn to the bold graphic.  But then I read it was a Western, so I was less interested.  That is until I was walking through The King's English Bookshop and this book was a staff pick.  You can always trust a staff recommend at The King's English. (Although now I have to feel guilty about taking their staff recommendations because I bought the book on my Kindle.  Sometimes modern life sucks.)

The Sisters Brothers tells the story of two brothers, Charlie and Eli Sisters.  Eli acts as the narrator for the tale.  The two brothers are a couple of wild-west thugs who work for a frontier bad guy.  Charlie and Eli are sent to track down a character named Herman Kermit Warm (what a brilliant name for a mysterious character in a Western).  The two travel through Oregon and San Francisco on their way to Warm's California claim and along the way they encounter one adventure after another.

As narrator, Eli hopes for a better life than his current existence filled with violence and cruelty.  While Charlie seems content with the status quo.  As we get to know the characters better, their relationship gives the novel a literary flair that questions the Western as we know it.  Charlie and Eli are surprisingly well spoken for a couple cowboy henchmen.  And amid the violence (and there is some gruesome violence) there is plenty of fine-tuned humor like the running joke surrounding Eli's discovery of teeth brushing.

The Sisters Brothers is a surprising, modern take on the Western that shakes up cliches and asks readers to reconsider what it means to be the good guy.


  1. The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt wasn't what I was expecting. I was expecting a straight-forward Western tale, maybe with a bit of humor, perhaps updated a bit for a modern palate. I don't "do" Westerns, as a general rule. But I was pleasantly surprised to find a tale of depth, wit, and humanity shot through with an intriguing plot full of twists and characters refreshingly nuanced and believable.

  2. The Sisters Brothers is an original and inventive novel. Its humor flows easily, without compromising the novel's foreboding darkness and meditation on life and self. This is the old west re imagined and it's a thoroughly entertaining ride.