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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Read "The Sisters Brothers" by Patrick Dewitt. It's dryly humorous, sad, and hopeful. Not bad for a Western!

Think you won't enjoy reading a Western?  Well, I think you'll like this one.  Although involving violent characters, The Sisters Brothers is dryly funny and has a contemporary vibe.  If you like the movie Fargo by Joel and Ethan Coen, you'll probably enjoy reading The Sisters Brothers.

The story takes place in 1851 and is narrated by Eli Sisters.  Eli and his older brother Charlie are widely renown for their murderous ways.  They work work for a rich man called the Commodore.  The Commodore has directed the brothers to travel from Oregon City to the northern California area to find a gold miner named Hermann Kermit Warm.  When they find Warm, the brothers are to extract from him details about his mysterious "formula" and then kill him.

Two elements make this murder-for-hire story offbeat and interesting.  First, author Patrick Dewitt populates the brutal California gold rush scene with interesting, and often sad, characters who are swept into and under the mania.  From miners gone loco by their isolation, to a booming San Francisco where merchants look to capitalize on the gold boom, Dewitt creates a memorable landscape. 

Second, the relationship between the brothers is interesting.  Eli and Charlie have each other's back, even while being sometimes brusque with, annoyed by, or just tired of the other.  Eli is dissatisfied with their lives.  He would  prefer to be a store keeper, misses his mother, and hopes one day to find someone who loves him. "I am not any one thing," he says.

When the brothers finally track down Hermann Kermit Warm, Eli's changing view on what they are doing with their lives causes them to pause:  Should they they finish the job, or do something else?

It's a good story that moves along at a brisk pace.  The Sisters Brothers is recommended reading.

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