Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Sisters Brothers

The Sisters Brothers,  by Patrick deWitt, is one of the year's most talked-about books. It's been popping up in the blogosphere everywhere, it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. And I found it on sale at Borders! Woohoo! Otherwise, I might not have picked it up at all.

I'm not into the westerns so much. I've read one other western and it was the horrific, freaking vile--but somewhat literarily appreciatable <--say that five times fast!--Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy.
Anyway, I steeled myself for reading The Sisters Brothers, but what I found was not quite what I expected.

 It's the story of two hitmen, Eli and Charlie Sisters, who are employed by the Commodore (typical western name) and on the prowl for a Gold Rush prospector they need to bump off. Eli, the tubbier, more philosophical of the two brothers is the story's narrator and I really kinda liked him. He was nice to whores and injured horses, gave money away as necessary to said whores and those suffering from ailments, and he waxed poetic here and there. A jerk with a heart of gold, really. At the end of the day, he was still willing to shoot someone if he had to, but he might feel badly about it afterward. Charlie, his brother, was not so philosophical, preferring to drink himself into oblivion and shoot whomever got in his way without so much as a backward glance.

So what was unexpected? The humor. It was deadpan and ironic in spots, silly in others. Eli had a soft spot for the newly-marketed toothbrush and he really was overly nice to those whores. The dynamic between Eli and Charlie was entertaining, and the spots they found themselves in as they traveled to kill the prospector were laughable at times: cursed by an old woman, a hotel burned down to their monetary peril, nearly killed by trappers. At other times they were gruesome: horse loses an eye, men covered in blisters and chemical burn.

This book is most definitely character-driven, which I do enjoy. I really felt invested in the brothers, especially Eli, and the "westernness" of it faded into the background, trumped by the humanity rather than the historical setting. That said, I bogged down about three quarters of the way through, but once I got over the hump, I was quick to finish the book.

This is one of those books that I appreciate for what the author was able to accomplish: a thought-provoking cast of characters and interesting psychological dilemmas. On the other hand, I'm not sure how long this book will stick with me. It certainly didn't bowl me over the way other novels have this year, though I appreciated it. It was a "healthy" read in this year's literary fiction diet.

Rating:
Snuggle (maybe a one-armed hug) -- Skewer

Pub. Date: April 2011
Publisher: Ecco 
Format: Hardcover
ISBN-10:  0062041266 
Source: Purchased by me.

13 comments:

  1. I feel as if I have seen this cover before, but was not familiar with the title. Sounds like an interesting read. Fortunately I had better luck with my foray into westerns and started with 3:10 to Yuma by Elmore Leonard. I loved it! You should definitely check it out, and as a bonus it's really short. I'll keep this in my back pocket for when I get into that western mood.

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  2. I will definitely try 3:10 to Yuma the next time I'm feeling adventurous. I'd really also like to read True Grit and Lonesome Dove. A little classic western never hurt anyone. :D

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  3. The cover of this book calls my name, but I've been unsure because it is a western. You've convinced me that I should give it a try.

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  4. Hmm, I'm still not sure of this one as I don't enjoy Western books or films. But if it fades into the background, it might be worth a shot?

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  5. I also picked this one up when I did my pillaging of Borders, and am really excited about reading it. I am not terribly fond of Westerns, but I did love Lonesome Dove, and have to admit that the comedy and characterization of this one really intrigue me. I am going to have to make time for this one in the new year. Great review today, Andi! I also love that you decided that this was a "one arm hug" kind of book!

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  6. I've looked at this numerous times--it's not at all the sort of book I would normally read, but sometimes those end up being the most satisfying. Love your rating of it!

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  7. This one sounds interesting and I have it checked out from the library. I wasn't sure if I would enjoy it either but I'm curious enough that I'm going to give it a try at some point! Glad to hear that you enjoyed it :) And have a great holiday Andi!!

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  8. Trite as it might sound, I've been completely fascinated by the cover of this one. I'm not a big fan of westerns in general but this one sounds interesting so I think I will give it a try.

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  9. I'm a fan of deadpan humor so I may have to add this one to the wish list.

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  10. I love deadpan humor and character-driven novels! But I know what you mean about reading a book and enjoying it, and then knowing it won't last long in your memory at all.

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  11. I'd give it more of a man hug...you know, that awkward, back thump thing they do?

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  12. I love the title and the cover, so I would pick this one up as well. I'm not too sure about westerns, though, but I'll be at the store later, maybe I'll actually scan through it this time! :)

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  13. Hmmm, I'm intrigued! Thanks for the review :)

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