The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

The Sisters Brothers by
Trade Paperback, 327 pages
The Sisters Brothers
Rating: 10/10


Eli and Charlie Sisters are hired killers, assigned to end the life of Hermann Kermit Warm in the wild west of the 1850s. They head out for California from Oregon City, butting heads with other criminals who would love the infamy of taking down the Sisters brothers, lusting after women, cheating, stealing, lying, and...dieting? Riding around on an inferior horse out of pity for the poor animal? The lives of these ruthless killers are touched with dry comedy as they set out to do the job they're assigned to do by a powerful man known as the Commodore.

Reason for Reading

Did I read it because it's on the Man Booker Prize shortlist for 2011, or did I read it because the cover art is sooo bad-ass? I can't decide.

Why you should read this book

To be perfectly honest, I never expected to find myself reading a Western, never mind explaining to people how awesome and hilarious one was, so...well-played, Patrick deWitt. The book is narrated by Eli, a ruthless killer touched by a ridiculous sentimentality in his personal life. The much-feared contract killer falls in love at the drop of a hat every time he passes through a town, bashfully mooning over prostitutes while his practical brother just wants what he paid for. The brutality is offhand and almost casual, fitting for hired killers, but offset by a certain charm. The Sisters Brothers is so witty and unexpected that it's no wonder it won the Governor-General's award - this book was masterfully done. Put aside all of your preconceptions about Western novels and start reading.

Why you should avoid this book

Honestly, I was so completely won over by this one that it's hard to think of why you'd want to pass on it. I guess it's not for someone looking for traditional Western fare.

Opening Paragraph

I was sitting outside the Commodore's mansion, waiting for my brother Charlie to come out with news of the job. It was threatening to snow and I was cold and for want of something to do I studied Charlie's new horse, Nimble. My new horse was called Tu. We did not believe in naming horses but they were given to us as partial payment for the last job with the names intact, so that was that. Our unnamed previous horses had been immolated, so it was not as though we did not need these new ones but I felt we should have been given money to purchase horses of our own choosing, horses without histories and habits and names they expected to be addressed by. I was very fond of my previous horse and lately had been experiencing visions while I slept of his death, his kicking, burning legs, his hot-popping eyeballs. [...]

Fabulous quotes

'My brother is brandy-sick and in need of a scorching hot bath.'
'Thirty cents,' she said monotonously. I looked at the sign above her, which still read twenty-five cents, but before I could speak she told me, 'It was twenty-five yesterday. It is thirty, now. Someday soon it will be thirty-five.'
'A boom time for the painters of signs,' I said. But the woman only continued her sewing.
'You saw us come in yourself,' I said.
'I was not paying attention then.' Half seriously he asked, 'Would you two object to standing and clicking your heels for me?'
'I would object to that strongly,' I told him.
'We are both healthy in our legs,' Charlie said assuredly.
'But you would not do it?' he asked me.
'I would sooner die than click my heels for you.'
'He is the unfriendly one,' Mayfield said to Charlie.
'We take turns,' Charlie said.

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Fun Tidbit

The film rights for The Sisters Brothers have been sold to actor John C. Reilly's production company. I would love to see that work out.

Would I read more by ?

Yes - I've actually got Ablutions out of the library right now.

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