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The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
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The Sisters Brothers (2011)

by Patrick deWitt

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,0452422,662 (3.87)1 / 626
  1. 81
    No country for old men by Cormac McCarthy (derelicious)
  2. 70
    True Grit by Charles Portis (ShelfMonkey)
  3. 50
    Streets of Laredo by Larry McMurtry (Limelite)
  4. 50
    Doc by Mary Doria Russell (Citizenjoyce)
    Citizenjoyce: Gunslingers and philosophy populate both books.
  5. 40
    Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (whymaggiemay)
    whymaggiemay: Both have a wonderful, authentic flavor of the old west.
  6. 10
    The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers by Thomas Mullen (VictoriaPL)
  7. 10
    Twilight by William Gay (tandah, tandah)
    tandah: Not as dark as 'Twilight' but it is a violent western road trip and both very well written.
  8. 10
    The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark (ocgreg34)
  9. 10
    Close Range by Annie Proulx (Cecilturtle)
  10. 00
    The Whip by Karen Kondazian (Anonymous user)
  11. 00
    Woe to Live On by Daniel Woodrell (alanteder)
  12. 02
    Frog Music by Emma Donoghue (sturlington)
    sturlington: Both set around the same time in California.
  13. 02
    Pop. 1280 by Jim Thompson (cf66)
    cf66: Sería interesante confrontar la visión del mundo de los protagonistas.
  14. 04
    The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon by Tom Spanbauer (Limelite)
    Limelite: Both these Westerns turn the genre on its ear. "Not John Wayne's Old West."
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English (235)  Dutch (2)  Italian (1)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (241)
Showing 1-5 of 235 (next | show all)
A fun story, written with pervasive deadpan humor. The narrator's self-questioning, and constant conflicts between his values and actions, raise questions for all of us. The Western A, B, C, D, … plotting is not my usual cup of tea, but deWitt makes it enjoyable. ( )
  breic | Sep 5, 2018 |
Winner of the Tournament of Books ( https://themorningnews.org/tob/ ), I had to read this one eventually. It's a rare bird, a historical novel with anti-heroes as the main characters, lots of murdering but also humor and heart. It's the 19th century and Charlie & Eli Sisters are very different brothers who have been working for the Commodore, tracking people down who have questionably done him wrong. The Commodore isn't a rich and powerful man on accident. I don't really love the idea of having empathy for a killer just because Eli Sisters needs his eyes opened to what he is doing. So not my favorite character in the world. It also seems like this trip through Oregon and California during the time of the Gold Rush is just too short. I guess I wanted more from the book. With such a clever title, I expected much more cleverness, though there are some lovely turns of phrase here. But as a Tournament of Books winner, I probably expected too much. There have been some stellar Tournament winners that I will fight to the death for. Also, since this book has been published a few years ago, it now seems like there has been a revival of the Western - like Westworld (though with far less humor). The historical comedy Another Period would be a good fit for you if you like this book. ( )
  booklove2 | Aug 29, 2018 |
A cleverly written picaresque novel, filled with memorable characters. Possibly the most enjoyable novel I've read this year. If you are a fan of the Coen brothers, you must read this book. ( )
  GaylaBassham | May 27, 2018 |
If True Grit and Blood Meridian got together this would be their love child. Dry dark humor with a heaping tablespoon of violence. ( )
  NateK | May 14, 2018 |
If you had told me that I would read a Western, chock full of violence and killing, for my book club and would thoroughly enjoy it, I would wonder if you knew me at all. And yet that is exactly what happened with this Booker Prize short-listed book. I really did not want to read it but because book club should be about pushing your personal reading boundaries, I decided to give it a try. Now I'm sure I'll read whatever deWitt come up with next because his The Sisters Brothers was such an oddly pleasing novel to read.

Charlie and Eli Sisters are contract killers living in Oregon. Hired by the Commodore to track Hermann Kermit Warm and kill him for stealing something from the Commodore, the two brothers, whose names strike fear in any who hear it, strike out towards Sacramento and the last place Warm was seen. They don't care what he's stolen or really anything at all about him other than that they get to kill him. Along their long journey, they meet (and often kill) a whole host of other characters, some who deserve it (evil) and some who don't (unlucky bumblers). And it is through their interactions with others, and their decision of what to do with Warm when they finally catch up with him, that show the reader who they are at their cores. Eli is quiet and naive with some semblance of a conscience while Charlie is more a straight up cold-blooded killer greedy for what he thinks he deserves.

Narrated by the childlike Eli, the reader is given access to his inner humanity instead of just his outside appearance and reputation. Considered simple by his more psychopathic brother, he details their encounters with others and his growing realization not only that they might be doing wrong but that his brother is using Eli's easily sparked rage for his own purposes. Although they are a team, Eli acts as much out of filial duty to Charlie as anything and the brothers' differences are legion as the book progresses. Eli loves food and wants to settle down with any woman who will have him, respectable or prostitute while Charlie loves nothing so much as whiskey and killing. One brother is a rather lovable (or perhaps pitiable) doofus while the other is more hardened and ruthless although both are unquestionably killers.

The story is undeniably violent but is wonderful despite that. DeWitt has a light hand throughout, leavening the darkness with humor and funny little details. His Eli is constantly dieting and is delighted by the minty taste of the tooth powder he discovers in the course of the brothers' adventures, not exactly your stereotypical gunslinger. His feelings and actions toward his plodding horse are misguided and gruesome but somehow also touching. The structure of the novel is mostly straightforward but there are two intermission pieces that are a bit confusing, completely different in tone from the rest of the story, and seem to contribute little to nothing to the story. Readers will find themselves feeling surprisingly sympathetic with characters who should by all rights be unlikable and although the ending is a bit quick, this was a fun and entertaining reading experience. If you like adventure stories with killing, or even if, like me,you don't, this is one to pick up and enjoy. ( )
  whitreidtan | May 8, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 235 (next | show all)
Sometimes, a novel is like a train: the first chapter is a comfortable seat in an attractive carriage,and the narrative speeds up. But there are other sorts of trains, and other sorts of novels. They rush by in the dark; passengers framed in the lighted windows are smiling and enjoying themselves. You aren't a passenger, you don't care about that destination, and the whole train rumbles on without you.
added by geocroc | editThe Guardian, Jane Smiley (Jul 15, 2011)
 
Much has been made, over the last few decades, about the death of the western as a genre. All this talk, however, seems to overlook a single, crucial point: the western was never just a genre....DeWitt not only plays the western straight, he draws from the best. Written with the parsed force of the best of Elmore Leonard, DeWitt’s closest CanLit antecedent seems to be Michael Ondaatje’s The Collected Works of Billy the Kid. The influence comes through not only in his attention to every word, every detail, but also in the deadpan, unflinching depiction of violence, reality elevated almost to the level of ridiculousness...Despite being deliberately and effectively part of a tradition (one can imagine it being written and read a hundred years ago, with a few caveats), The Sisters Brothers is a bold, original and powerfully compelling work, grounded in well-drawn characters and a firm hold on narrative. When they say “They don’t write em like that anymore,” they’re wrong.
 
Because rather than concerning himself with showboating his period-specific research, deWitt has deliberately flouted the rules of straight-laced historical realism here, to stunning effect. And most importantly, what he does get right are the flawed and jagged hearts of his characters, which is all the real this reviewer needs....What Western is real anyway? Aren’t they all revisions and stylizations of the past? From the kindergarten morals and the ridiculous bloodlessness of Hollywood Westerns, to Louis L’Amour’s pat Harlequin Romances for men, to the populist machismo of spaghetti Westerns and their impossibly slow gun duels, the genre has never registered very high on the reality scale.....The overall effect is fresh, hilariously anti-heroic, often genuinely chilling, and relentlessly compelling. Yes, this is a mighty fine read, and deWitt a mighty fine writer.
 
There never was a more engaging pair of psychopaths than Charlie and Eli Sisters, two brothers who kill for hire—and for necessity, and sometimes for the pure, amusing hell of it....So subtle is DeWitt’s prose, so slyly note-perfect his rendition of Eli’s voice in all its earnestly charming 19th-century syntax, and so compulsively readable his bleakly funny western noir story, that readers will stick by Eli even as he grinds his heel into the shattered skull of an already dead prospector.
 
Nothing in Patrick deWitt’s first novel, Ablutions, a laconic barfly’s lament for a dysfunctional life, could prepare you for his second, a triumphantly dark, comic anti-western; apart, that is, from the same devastating sense of confidence and glittering prose. ...The writing is superb, with each brief chapter a separate tale in itself, relayed in Eli’s aphoristic fashion. The scope is both cinematic and schematic, with a swaggering, poetic feel reminiscent of a Bob Dylan lyric, while the author retains gleefully taut control of the overall structure. ...
 

» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Patrick deWittprimary authorall editionscalculated
Chong, Suet YeeDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stiles, DanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
Voor mijn moeder
For my mother
First words
I was sitting outside the Commodore's mansion, waiting for my brother Charlie to come out with news of the job.
Quotations
We can all of us be hurt, and no one is exclusively safe from worry and sadness.
The creak of bed springs suffering under the weight of a restless man is as lonely a sound as I know.
Here is another miserable mental image I will have to catalog and make room for.
To me, luck was something you either earned or invented through strength of character. You had to come by it honestly; you could not trick or bluff your way into it.
What would the world be, I thought, without money hung around our necks, hung around our very souls?
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Hermann Kermit Warm is going to die. The enigmatic and powerful man known only as the Commodore has ordered it, and his henchmen, Eli and Charlie Sisters, will make sure of it. Though Eli doesn't share his brother's appetite for whiskey and killing, he's never known anything else. But their prey isn't an easy mark, and on the road from Oregon City to Warm's gold-mining claim outside Sacremento, Eli begins to question what he does-and whom he does it for. With The Brothers Sisters, deWitt pays homage to the classic Western, transforming it into an unforgettable comic tour de force. Filled with a remarkable cast of characters-losers, cheaters, ne'er-do-wells from all stripes of life-and told by a complex and compelling narrator, it is a violent, lustful odyssey through the underworld of the 1850s frontier that beautifully captures the humor, melancholy, and grit of the Old West and two brothers bound by blood, violence, and love. (ARC)
Haiku summary
The Sisters brothers?
Guns for hire, but Eli
Fancies a job change.
(passion4reading)

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0062041266, Hardcover)

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize

Hermann Kermit Warm is going to die. The enigmatic and powerful man known only as the Commodore has ordered it, and his henchmen, Eli and Charlie Sisters, will make sure of it. Though Eli doesn't share his brother's appetite for whiskey and killing, he's never known anything else. But their prey isn't an easy mark, and on the road from Oregon City to Warm's gold-mining claim outside Sacramento, Eli begins to question what he does for a living–and whom he does it for.

With The Sisters Brothers, Patrick deWitt pays homage to the classic Western, transforming it into an unforgettable comic tour de force. Filled with a remarkable cast of characters–losers, cheaters, and ne'er-do-wells from all stripes of life–and told by a complex and compelling narrator, it is a violent, lustful odyssey through the underworld of the 1850s frontier that beautifully captures the humor, melancholy, and grit of the Old West and two brothers bound by blood, violence, and love.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:03 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

When a frontier baron known as the Commodore orders Charlie and Eli Sisters, his hired gunslingers, to track down and kill a prospector named Herman Kermit Warm, the brothers journey from Oregon to San Francisco, and eventually to Warm's claim in the Sierra foothills, running into a witch, a bear, a dead Indian, a parlor of drunken floozies, and a gang of murderous fur trappers.… (more)

» see all 7 descriptions

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