The Sisters Brothers

the sisters brothers“I was sitting outside the Commodore’s mansion, waiting for my brother Charlie to come out with news of the job.” – The Sisters Brothers, Patrick deWitt

I finished this book and have strangely little to say about it. I think I will remember it as an enjoyable and light read, but not really with much substance.

The Sisters brothers, Eli and Charlie, are a couple of hired guns in the old west who work for a man called the Commodore. They have a deadly reputation and are quite feared. But in reality, they are oddly bumbling, except when it comes to killing. They are swift, precise, and matter-of-fact with their guns.

The story is narrated by just one of the brothers, Eli. Despite his chosen profession, we learn that he is a chubby lonelyheart and feels terribly insecure.

“…looking at my brother on his fine, tall horse, and knowing he did not love me the way I had always loved and admired him and looked up to him; my lip quivered and I found myself shouting….I very much wanted to simply quit them, to stop and walk away from Tub [his pathetic and wounded horse], and from the job, and Charlie, construct a new life…so long as everything was restful and easy and completely different from my present position in the world”

I guess you could say that Eli is the “good” brother who has a conscience and self-awareness. He frequently talks about feeling shame at his emotions and actions. Charlie is the “bad” brother who is very mono dimensional—he seems only interested in drinking to excess, whoring, killing, and making money. He is cool as a cucumber in a tight spot and merciless.

It’s kind of a surprising book to enjoy as a “light read” because many gruesome things happen with regularity to both the people and animals.  Charlie and Eli kill a lot of people. There are blunt and almost oddly comic descriptions of physical horrors like nasty spider bites, swelling tooth abscesses, and blistering chemical spills. The hardest for me, oddly, was a horse who loses an eye in a grizzly attack and the subsequent “treatment” of this injury by the wild west version of a “doctor.”

It’s a perfectly decent, quick read—but I probably won’t go out of my way to recommend it to others.


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