By Patrick DeWitt
Published by Ecco
on April 26, 2011
Hermann Kermit Warm is going to die. The enigmatic and powerful man known only as the Commodore has ordered it, and his henchmen, Eli and Charlie Sisters, will make sure of it. Though Eli doesn't share his brother's appetite for whiskey and killing, he's never known anything else. But their prey isn't an easy mark, and on the road from Oregon City to Warm's gold-mining claim outside Sacramento, Eli begins to question what he does for a living - and whom he does it for.
With The Sisters Brothers, Patrick deWitt pays homage to the classic Western, transforming it into an unforgettable comic tour de force. Filled with a remarkable cast of characters - losers, cheaters, and ne'er-do-wells from all stripes of life - and told by a complex and compelling narrator, it is a violent, lustful odyssey through the underworld of the 1850s frontier that beautifully captures the humor, melancholy, and grit of the Old West and two brothers bound by blood, violence, 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!