Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sisters Brothers

Although I had heard of the Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt because it got great reviews and I had added it to my wish list, I seriously doubt I would have gotten around to reading it except for the Tournament of Books.

Here is the blurb from the back: 
Hermann Kermit Warm is going to die, and hired guns 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 goldmining claim outside Sacramento, Eli begins to question what he does for a living—and whom he does it for. 
A Western?  I don’t read westerns.  My dad had every Louis L’amour ever published.  I tried to read them - and couldn’t.  On the other hand, my favorite book as a child was Little House in the Big Woods and all the other Laura Ingalls Wilder books.  And I still love Willa Cather.  But still, I don’t think I would have actually read this but for the fact that it won the Tournament of Books beating IQ84, Open City, State of Wonder, The Tiger’s Wife, The Cat’s Table, Salvage the Bones, Sense of an Ending, Swamplandia! and more.  And following the Tournament everyday and reading the Judges decisions in each match and the commentary, I just had to read it. 

Does it live up to the hype?  I don’t know, but it is very different from anything I have read involving gunslingers and the gold rush and I enjoyed it.  The characters were fascinating and it was remarkable that the author could get you to actually care about the well being of and routing for cold blooded professional killers.  And the supporting cast is engrossing too.

The story is told by Eli who is struggling with his desire to continue on in his profession as well as his relationship with his brother and his narration of the story is what makes the book so compelling.  The writing is simply wonderful being both artful and befitting the characters.  But it is not all existential navel gazing, it is action packed and humorous too.  

While I did have issues with the horses (only confirming my inclination to not read books with animals as awful things tend to happen to them), it did not deter me from forging ahead and enjoying the book over all.  Of course it is an extremely violent book and others may have issues with that but a book about two gunslingers at large in the wild wild west during the gold rush simply wouldn’t work without it.


Anonymous said...

Huh. I hadn't heard of this book, but it sounds excellent. I've read some of Elmore Leonard's westerns this year and enjoyed them. Hadn't really read the genre previously.

Moo said...

I don't know if this even really fits in the Western genre. I don't think my dad, a dedicated Western reader, would have liked it primarily because it does not portray an romanticized version of the west and the "hero" if you could possibly call him that, is extremely flawed. In any case, whatever category it fits into or not, it is extremely well written and I highly recommend it.