Wednesday, March 7, 2012

REVIEW: The Sisters Brothers, by Patrick deWitt

The Sisters Brothers, by Patrick deWitt. Published 2011 by HarperCollins.

I picked up The Sisters Brothers because I had time to kill at the airport one day and because my friend Ann Kingman of Books on the Nightstand said it was great. Well, it is. It is great.

Set in the Gold Rush days of California and Oregon, The Sisters Brothers tells the story of a pair of hired killers and their last big job. Eli and Charlie Sisters are sent to kill Hermann Kermit Warm; Warm has invented a formula for finding gold and their boss wants the formula. Eli narrates the story, and he is a wonderful fictional creation. I don't know how to describe Eli except to say he's a nerd who ended up in the wrong profession. Overweight and bumbling, with a horse as desperate as himself for love and affection, he grows in self-confidence as events go slowly and tragically awry. When the story opens, Charlie is the "lead man," the one who fancies himself in charge. But little by little, slowpoke Eli takes the reins. Eli has a quiet charm and likability that almost make me forget he's a serial killer on a mission.

I have to say, I really loved this book. The story follows their adventures as they chase, and eventually find, Warm and his companion. Along the way they stay in flophouse hotels, shop for clothes, try to seduce women and even learn to brush their teeth. It's a picaresque that never gets dull and never ever loses its way. I can see why it was shortlisted for 2011's Man Booker Prize, although as a Western it seems at first glance an unlikely choice for a prestigious European literary award. But it really is that good.

And it's funny. Like, not exactly laugh-out-loud funny but chuckle-enough-to-get-attention funny. Eli has a terrific sense of humor and the situations the brothers find themselves in are frequently absurd to hilarious. Reading The Sisters Brothers makes me want to pick up my Charles Portis stash, or try something else outside my comfort zone. It's just as great a time as I've had reading all year. I'd strongly recommend it to just about any reader. There is some violence but nothing too graphic- although that one scene where the horse's eye- well, you'll see what I mean, no pun intended, if you take my advice and pick up this wonderful novel.

And it counts towards the Complete Booker Challenge!

Rating: BUY
The Sisters Brothers
by Patrick deWitt
I'm a Powell's partner and receive a small commission on sales.

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.


R. J. said...

I like to read your book reviews and this book sounds like fun. The title is very clever. It is a good author who can create a memorable title.

ImageNations said...

Have read reviews of this book. Initially, when it was shortlisted for the Booker, I thought it was an LGBT book. Don't know why, perhaps the title.

This is a great review. thanks

JaneGS said...

This was my pick among the Booker candidates to read, and though I haven't yet, your review and assurances that it is funny have prompted me to look for an e-version for an upcoming trip.

Great review--I think I like this cover better than the original, btw.

bermudaonion said...

This book has been on my radar for a while. It sounds really good to me!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Oh! Every time I've read a review, I've been uninspired and though "Eh, well, we will see". You have now inspired me.

Audra said...

I have this one at home -- I can't wait to read it. It sounds so weird/fun and your review has me esp eager now!

Zibilee said...

I have been so excited to start this book, but haven't yet gotten to it. It seems like such an excellent premise, and the execution sounds wonderful as well. I am so glad that you had such a great experience with this one, because it bodes well for me. I find that we have similar tastes at times. I also wanted to let you know that I just started Sea of Poppies last night because I remembered you loved it so much. I can't put it down! Great review today, by the way!

bookspersonally said...

I really enjoyed this one too - completely agree on the humor, and, well, everything! Spot on.

Anonymous said...

I swear, I'm the only blogger around who read this and went "meh." I think I was expecting GREATNESS, because of all the hype.

Madeleine said...

I bought this book but have to read it yet, somehow western stories are out of my comfort zone. Since I read your review I will give this novel a chance, thank-you for the review :)

Kwizgiver said...

I put this in my queue. I'm hoping to read it during Spring Break, in April. Great review.

Kathleen said...

I never read westerns so maybe this is one to try.