The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

Just finished reading The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt and will say what a great read this was, in spite of my reservations!

Firstly, great cover, secondly, great name and thirdly – one of the characters is called Herman Kermit Warm – which frankly sealed the deal!  My intrigue-ometer was off the chart.  Anyway, aside from that one of my very good friends, who has introduced me to so many good books over the years, recommended this, in fact she specifically said ‘I would love it’ (with that ‘or else’ tone!)  And, I actually did which was a BIG surprise to me.

Okay, the reason this was a surprise?  This is a western and I’m not really a Cowboys and Indians type of reader but sometimes you just have to put the comfort blanket aside.  The story is told by Eli Sister (yes, that’s the surname).   Eli and his brother Charlie are a couple of guns for hire working out of Oregon for the chief honcho, The Commodore.  Their latest mission, which they have chosen to accept, is to travel to San Francisco and kill said Herman Kermit Warm (HKW).

In between Oregon and San Francisco they become involved in a number of scrapes along the way that usually end with some form of violent altercation (frequently ending up quite badly for the other character or characters involved) until they finally reach their destination and things get turned on their head.

The characters – the brothers are brilliant to read.  The dialogue between the two is highly entertaining.  I’ve read that this book has a comedy (dark) element – I definitely wouldn’t class this as a comedy but the conversation between these two is very effective.  The way the two brothers are written is plain and simple, as is the description of place, and yet the author manages to conjure them perfectly.  I never had any problems imagining either of them and they’re also joined by some other entertaining characters along the way.  Again, all easy to picture.

This is a simple and quick read with a good story that unfolds at a decent pace.  You see, basically, Eli is starting to question this way of life.  Why are they going to kill HKW?  Wouldn’t a quieter life be easier?  They could try it for 12 months.  Their reputation doesn’t really lend itself to a quiet life after all.  He’s started to seek out a bit of female companionship – although this doesn’t come natural to him and his brother seems to enjoy the lion’s share of any attention to be had.  Eli, is apparently  a bit portly and enjoys his vittles.  This definitely lends quite a bit of humour as he becomes probably the first gun fighter come hired assassin that I’ve ever read about who is on a diet.  Bless his grubby little socks!, On top of that he seems to be developing not only a conscience about his fellow man but also a bit of compassion for his animals, or in this case his horse! Inconceivable!!

Anyway, to cut a long story short, the boys end up in SanFrancisco during 1850’s gold rush.  Patrick deWitt also does a great job of capturing the essence of the fever and hysteria.  He shows families gone to wrack and ruin over blood lust and the levels that people sink to for a bag of gold.

There certainly isn’t a shortage of killings or ‘ick’ moments, but, I didn’t find any of it off putting.  It’s just not gratuitous and is told in a very matter of fact way – ‘this is how people lived so get over it’ – sort of style.

I really can’t fault this and thought it was very entertaining.  I would definitely recommend it regardless of if you think you like westerns or not.  Well written, good story, entertaining, great dialogue and two brothers who you feel compelled to follow on their journey.

The Sisters Brothers

The Sisters Brothers


8 Responses to “The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt”

  1. Genki Jason

    I picked this up in my library and started reading it but for a number of reasons I stopped and someone reserved it and I had to take it back – I got to the resolution of the stand-off with the trappers in the barn. From what I read of the book your review is spot on – the matter of fact tone taken makes the book so easy to read and humorous in parts and the collection of odd characters, particularly the bothers, makes the book compelling. I’ll have to go back to the library and see if I can find it!

    • lynnsbooks

      I was genuinely surprised by this one. I read it begrudgingly and have thought about it quite a bit since I finished.

      Lynn 😀

  2. Redhead

    I’m not into westerns, but I totally want to read this! It’s pinging my intrigue-ometer, that’s for sure (and I’m totally stealing that word, it’s brilliant!)

    • lynnsbooks

      I’m really not into westerns either! That’s why this was such a surprise. I think it’s the dialogue for me. So good. Funny in an original way, quite brutal but I think probably in a honest way and reflective of the era. And, very quick.
      btw, I also have a bothered-ometer – when somebody is getting on my nerves.
      Lynn 😀

  3. TBM

    I used to work with a guy named Kermit. I always got a kick out of the fact that his name really was Kermit, and not a nickname. It has been years since I read a Western. when I first moved to Colorado when I was a teen I read many. Maybe it’s time for another one.

    • lynnsbooks

      You should give it a go if you get chance (although we’re all going to be RIPing now). It’s very entertaining though.
      Lynn 😀

  4. Wendleberry

    I read this on a recommendation, too. I went in blindly, having only read the back cover, and adored it completely. Eli grew on me quickly, Charlie over time, but the relationship between them was wonderful. I also loved all the ‘ick’ moments.

    • lynnsbooks

      It’s a great book. I’ve recommended it to loads of people – I don’t think they’ve taken me up on it though. They hear the word ‘western’ – it’s such a cool book though! I’ll keep banging on the drum – eventually somebody will pick it up and love it and my work here will be complete hahahaha.
      Lynn 😀

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