The Sisters Brothers, by Patrick DeWitt

The Sisters BrothersI have no idea what to write about this book. I read it with a bunch of friends for our book club, and even though I only finished the book maybe five hours before we talked about it, I had already forgotten most of what happened in it. And that was like two weeks ago. So forgive me if I’m a bit vague.

The premise was promising. It’s a western, which is something I’ve never read before. There are two brothers from Oregon City, Eli and Charlie Sisters, who are the hired hit men, basically, for a figure called the Commodore. They’re off to off a guy with the unlikely name of Hermann Kermit Warm who has done the Commodore wrong in some unspecified way (is there any other way?). I’m intrigued.

Maybe if that had been the story, I would have liked it better. Again, I don’t know from westerns, so I don’t know if that’s how one usually goes, with the shooting and the killing and all. But the real story of the Sisters brothers is that Eli is a bit over the shooting and the killing and all, and so he, as narrator, reflects on his ways and the life he leads, while he continues to lead said life.

And I guess that could also be interesting, but DeWitt’s story just did not work for me, especially the characters. I didn’t care about Eli or how he was so done with killing people, because he starts the story not really wanting to kill people but killing them anyway and ends it the same way, with no change seeming forthcoming and no real insight into why he does what he does. Thrilling? Charlie I liked better, because he’s a guy that likes to shoot things and so he shoots things and I appreciate that sort of consistency. Hermann was probably the most interesting character of the bunch, but that may just be because he wasn’t in the story long enough to get boring?

The story was whatever, too… I expected guns and violence and I got them, including a scene with an eye and a spoon that made me a little queasy, but I also got long stretches of Charlie being drunk and Eli whining about it, and Eli making love-eyes at various ladies who gladly took his money, and Eli getting a tooth pulled and discovering toothpaste (tooth powder? Whatever they had back then), and Charlie threatening various people with guns and killing some of them. All of these scenes are about as exciting as I make them sound.

It’s possible, and maybe probable, that if I had any prior experience with westerns I would find this book more enjoyable – I’ve certainly seen enough love for this book that there must be something that redeems it. Maybe it’s like a “how a western would really work” novel? I have no idea.

On the plus side, or something, no one else in my book group had any idea what was going on either, so I didn’t feel so alone about it! Have you read this? Please tell me what I’m missing!

Recommendation: For people who have any idea what’s going on in a western?

Rating: 5/10

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4 thoughts on “The Sisters Brothers, by Patrick DeWitt

  1. raidergirl3 says:

    I just read it a week ago, and I really liked it. I found Eli’s voice very amusing, as he struggled with giving up killing. I just found the whole book funny, in a twisted sort of way. I’m not a reader of westerns at all. All the double crossing, and trying to get their forturne. Eli and his women – he’s a cold blooded killer, but he can’t figure out his life.

    • Alison says:

      Hmm. I was hoping it was a lack of knowledge, but perhaps it’s a lack of the right sense of humor. Can’t fix that! I’m glad you were properly equipped to enjoy this one. 🙂

  2. Emily Barton says:

    I just read a review of this one and found myself thinking, “Hmmm, maybe I ought to try this as an introduction to westerns (which I don’t read, either). You’ve convinced me that maybe it’s not the place to start. Than again, raidergirl3’s comment has me thinking again. Decisions. Decisions.

    • Alison says:

      Right? I don’t want to tell you yes or no to reading it, because I am just clearly not the target audience for the book. So, wait, maybe I’ll tell you to go obtain it for free from the library or a friend or whatever and give it a go… but if you don’t like the beginning part you can give it up because the style stays the same throughout the whole thing. This seems reasonable. 🙂

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