The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
(Ecco, 2011, 336 pages)
This “modern” rendition of a Western was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2011 and I’d been wanting to read it for a while. It wasn’t quite what I expected, but then I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked it up. It’s 1851 and the Sisters brothers, Charlie and Eli, are based in Oregon City and work for the Commodore. They’re his henchmen who take care of those who have made the poor choice of doing something to displease him. The most recent assignment will take Charlie and Eli to California as they seek out a prospector who has something the Commodore wants.
Charlie is designated as the lead man while Eli, our narrator, follows along as his second. Eli isn’t really sold on the life he and Charlie are living. In fact he’s kind of taken with the idea of settling down with a women and perhaps becoming a store owner. With this in the back of his mind he sets forward on their mission with the intention that it will be his last. In the meantime we get insight into what it’s like to be one of the feared Sisters brothers – Charlie’s fondness for alcohol and complete lack of empathy make him a ticking time bomb who shows no remorse when it comes time to pull out his gun. Eli is often referred to as “the larger one” but strangers quickly pick up on the goodness inside him and prefer their interactions to be with him rather than his brother.
I really enjoyed this book and read it in just a few days. If you’re looking at venturing outside your literary comfort zone this would be a fun pick for you. It’s a “western” but it’s not… it has depth and a plot line that keeps you turning pages to see how things will turn out. Plus it has me wanting to read more about the gold rush (a time period and event that I’ve always been fascinated by). Good read!