The Sisters Brothers
- Granta Books
- Publication Date:
- 05 January 2012
- Modern & Contemporary
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I found this title through a review and an unlikely choice for me but I found myself drawn to the story and unable to put it down. Seriously why would you want to read about 2 brothers, hired killers, and there journey to a job for the Commodore during the days of the California Gold Rush? Because it is so well done with the characters, plot, humor and cover art.
It has been said that Country and Western music is easily identifiable because the basic story is, "My horse died and my woman left me." If that is the case, then <u>The Sisters Brothers</u> is truly a western story. This novel by Patrick deWitt is sometimes stark, often exquisite, and always accessible. I couldn't possibly praise this work more highly.
I thoroughly enjoyed this thrilling journey back in time to the era of the California Gold Rush from start to finish. The story of the eponymous siblings Charlie and [narrator] Eli is a simple one very well told. They are hired assasins in the employ of the Commodore - a real bigshot in those parts - who wants a certain Hermann Kermit Warm dead. Why? Well, that'd be telling... It is 1851 and Warm is a prospector with a secret formula and a contract on his head. That's more than even Eli Sisters knows - his bother Charlie's "the lead man" on this job, much to the younger Eli's displeasure. The Sisters Brothers like to argue their points with each other - Charlie's a cold and distant man with a lethal shot and short moral capacity, Eli's more of a thinker and although he knows how to get the job done, there's definitely a more sensitive side to him. He just wants somebody to love him.On their trail across country from Oregon City to San Francisco, the brothers encounter many an unsettling scene, and Patrick DeWitt's superb ability at setting the scene with just the right amount of foreboding and menace is totally pitch-perfect. From the eerily recurring 'weeping man' to the downright frightening witch in the forest shack, and from a plethora of rapscallion prospectors in the wild to the various ne'er do wells in the towns springing up on the road to San Francisco Bay, DeWitt's characters are rich in their authenticity and presence. The artfully inserted back story of Hermann Kermit Warm is worthy of a novel in its own right.When they eventually reach their destination, the brothers discover that their mission is far from completed, and the final chapters unfold apace - this reader's emotions being thrown all over the place.It's been said by countless others both in print and on screen, but this book has to be adapted for film by someone worthy of a story of this calibre and tone, and one name springs readily to mind. Or rather two do. I'll join the chorus and say that if there's anybody out there more suited to the task than those Coen Brothers - Joel & Ethan - then I'll be very surprised! Read this book now if you haven't already!! Highly recommended to anyone who loves a great story told with real style.
First Line: I was sitting outside the Commodore's mansion, waiting for my brother Charlie to come out with news of the job.The year is 1851. The California Gold Rush is at a fever pitch, and the Commodore has his little corner of the universe in Oregon City, Oregon nailed down tight-- due in part to the efforts of his two hired guns, brothers Eli and Charlie Sisters.The Commodore sent another of his employees down to San Francisco to keep an eye on someone who severely displeased him. Now it is up to Eli and Charlie to go down there and kill the man.They pack a few provisions, saddle up their horses, and set out... only nothing on this trip seems to go smoothly. Every time Charlie gets near a saloon, he has to get drunk, and they're losing time because of his hangovers. Eli has nothing but trouble with his horse, and every single person they meet along the way seems to be more than a bit strange.This picaresque novel is a pure delight. The tale is told by younger brother Eli, and as the pages turn, it's easy to begin to wonder how on earth he could be one of the infamous Sisters Brothers-- killers that most people cross the street to avoid. Eli is so honest and forthcoming about himself and what happens along the way that when I did find out that he, indeed, did come by his reputation honestly, I was in a bit of a shock.It is easy to fall into a line of work and be good at it whether you like it or not, but Eli's had enough. He wants to turn over a new leaf, take the money he's saved up, set up shop, and become a storekeeper. Even though his brother Charlie thinks that idea is hilarious, I was rooting for Eli every step of the way.DeWitt makes every paragraph of his tale look as easy as falling off the proverbial log. Every character comes to vivid life (even Eli's horse) and the action flows as smooth as can be. By book's end I honestly felt as though I'd experienced life during the Gold Rush in all its grimy, scary, funny, thought-provoking glory.My only complaint is that I finished the book far too quickly, and I'm left feeling like Oliver Twist. Please, sir-- may I have some more?
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