The Sisters Brothers
By Patrick DeWitt
Hermann Kermit Warm is going to die: Eli and Charlie Sisters can be counted on for that. Though Eli has never shared his brother’s penchant for whiskey and killing, he’s never known anything else. On the road to Warm’s gold-mining claim outside San Francisco – and from the back of his long-suffering one-eyed horse – Eli struggles to make sense of his life without abandoning the job he’s sworn to do. Patrick DeWitt, acclaimed author of Ablutions, doffs his hat to the classic Western and then transforms it into a comic tour-de-force with an unforgettable narrative voice that captures all the absurdity, melancholy, and grit of the West – and of these two brothers bound to each other by blood and scars and love.
This book is great. It’s very different from anything I’ve read recently, which was refreshing. The story is narrated by Eli, and follows he and his older brother, Charlie, while they make their way to San Francisco to track and kill Hermann Kermit Warm, as ordered by their boss, The Commodore. Along the way they encounter a variety of interesting and dangerous people.
Eli and Charlie are killers, and their names are known everywhere they go. I found Eli to be the more sympathetic of the two brothers. Charlie is not necessarily more violent than Eli, but he is impulsive and seems to take more joy in the violence than Eli does. Throughout the novel, Eli struggles with questions of morality and loyalty. Charlie is quick-tempered and overindulges in alchohol, but Eli loves his brother, and despite the ups and downs in their relationship, they look out for each other.
The story takes place in the Old West, but I wouldn’t necessarily describe it as a Western – partly because I’ve never really read a Western, so I’m not sure how true it is to the genre, and partly because I think this novel is so unique that it can’t easily be classified as one genre or another.
It has been nominated for, and won, a handful of awards. When I began reading, I worried it would another of those award-winners that I just couldn’t get into, but I am happy to say that I was pulled in to the story and couldn’t put it down until I finished.
The chapters in the novel are nice and short, which made for a quick read. The story is violent, funny, and engrossing, and I definitely think it’s a must-read!