Sunday, February 16, 2014

'The Sisters Brothers'

In a reader's Book World, it's a delight to have two good books on the nightstand. But when a reader has three or four, it's more than a delight; it's a Book Hog paradise.

What's very nice is if one of the books is The One.  The One you've really really waited for; The One that is most probably the next in a beloved series. The One you've set your sights on.  You stupidly think that the other books won't be as wonderful.

But this time, Book World slapped me in the face.  The book I'd been waiting for for years turned out to be...meh.  Not what I expected.  The other two?

Couldn't put them down.

One was 'Above' (I reviewed it just yesterday).

The other was 'The Sisters Brothers'.  I can now see why this strange, wonderful western was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize.

It was interesting trying to juggle my reading time between the two, although both of them accompanied me to my favorite reading place, the bath tub.  

'The Sisters Brothers', by Patrick deWitt, tells the tale of Eli and Charlie Sisters, hired killers employed by a mysterious, powerful man known only as Commodore. Charlie and Eli are sent out in pursuit of Hermann Kermit Warm, a man who has something that the Commodore wants. During their journey from Oregon City to Warm's gold claim outside of Sacramento, the brothers run into situations that test their nerves. And the characters they meet are an assortment of ne'er-do-wells, prostitutes, liars, and scoundrels. It is during this journey that the quiet, thoughtful Eli begins to question why he chose that particular role in life...and who is he really working for?

I dip my toe in many genres, and I've always appreciated and respected western novels. Robert Parker left us with many fine westerns, and Zane Grey is tops on my list, as is Charles Portis. And although 'The Sisters Brothers' is set during the 1850's, it left a contemporary taste in my mouth. The narrator, Eli, has musings that are timeless; Why am I here?  Why do I do what I do?  How can I change it?

Eli, unlike Charlie, falls in love easily, and has a charitable heart, which is rather ironic for a man who kills people for a living.  And Charlie...oh, Charlie. A boozer, brilliant with his gun, living day-to-day, and not questioning what his future holds. Both brothers are so very close, yet so far away.  

deWitt's characters are beautifully realized, and I cannot for the life of me ever forget them. The whole novel is a comic tour de force, and brought to mind the work of Mark Twain, one of my favorite authors.  

But most importantly, it doesn't matter if you don't enjoy reading western novels. 'The Sisters Brothers' has something for everyone.

Give it a chance...and prepare to laugh your butt off.

'The Sisters Brothers' is available at your favorite bookstore and local library.

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