Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

The Sisters BrothersThe Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The description of The Sisters Brothers in Goodreads is “...a darkly comic novel about the picaresque misadventures of two hired guns.” What I liked most about Patrick DeWitt's novel is the way he treated his two main characters, Eli and Charlie Sisters, as if they are going through life with a normal goal that has nothing to do with killing someone. DeWitt seems to be commenting about the value of human life in that period (The California Gold Rush – 1848-1855) and in some ways about the value of human life in all times. Comic is not a word I would choose to describe this work, although other readers seem to appreciate the humor more than I did.

The novel is written from the point of view of Eli Sisters, the younger of the two brothers. Eli is sensitive and spends most of the book evaluating the choices he's made in life. He's looking for a relationship, specifically with a woman, that will give him a mental and spiritual connection. Charlie, however, is more interested in having sex and getting drunk, not necessarily in that order. Because we see their world through Eli's eyes, we appreciate the goals of the younger Sisters brother, even if the objects of his affection are unworthy.

Eli loves his horse. Tub was chosen for him by Charlie, who bought two horses and kept the best one for himself. Eli is disappointed with the animal he's received, but Tub is the first horse he's had with a name and after awhile Eli is impressed. Eli sticks with Tub even after the animal suffers the loss of one of his eyes. Just like the relationship Eli is seeking with a woman, the relationship with his horse is based on a connection of mind and spirit rather than a simple evaluation of what he can get from the animal.

The most important relationship Eli has in this book is his relationship with his brother. He's very protective of Charlie, even when Charlie takes the best for himself and leaves Eli with what is left. In the end the brothers are family and that is important, even to killers.

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