Review: The Sisters Brothers

The Sisters BrothersPatrick deWitt, The Sisters Brothers

The eponymous Sisters brothers are Charlie and Eli, two of the most notirous hired gunmen in the West. Eli narrates the story of their adventures as they set out to perform a job for their boss, the Commodore. They have orders to kill a man named Hermann Kermit Warm, who is reported to be in San Francisco. As Eli and Charlie travel towards their target, they encounter many strange and interesting people, including a boy who is determined to get to California despite all his relatives being dead or gone; a pretty bookkeeper who is dying of consumption; and a dentist who introduces Eli to the wonders of toothbrushes. Eli also ponders the nature of life and begins to wonder whether he really wants to continue his career of violence. Will the Sisters brothers ever catch up with Hermann Kermit Warm, and if so, will Eli be able to finish the job?

I’m happy to say that I can add to the large number of positive reviews I’ve seen for this book. Even though I wouldn’t call myself a fan of Westerns, I enjoyed the setting of this book because it provided a perfect backdrop for Eli’s interior journey. Although he and Charlie encounter other people from time to time and even stay in towns occasionally, the bulk of the action seems to take place when they’re alone with each other. This gives Eli plenty of time to reflect on his bond with Charlie and discover what links them together, as well as what makes them different. The plot is definitely secondary to this central relationship. I also really liked the moral complexity of the characters. Even though Eli is the main protagonist, the book never quite lets you forget that he is accustomed to killing people in cold blood; in fact, he and Charlie do some pretty despicable things in the novel. I’m very impressed that the book managed to make the Sisters brothers likeable despite their many faults. Overall, I’m definitely glad that I read this book and will look forward to seeing what deWitt writes next.

3 thoughts on “Review: The Sisters Brothers

    • Christina says:

      What I found strange was that I did like Eli and Charlie, despite the fact that I found most of their actions morally reprehensible. Something about Eli’s voice, and his frequent questioning of his own actions, caused me to root for him despite myself!

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