You’ve heard of The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt right? The winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award and the Rogers Writers Trust Fiction Prize? The book that was also a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Man Booker Prize and was a national bestseller?
That’s the one.
Patrick DeWitt had a way better 2011 than I did.
So The Sisters Brothers is essentially a Western, not normally my cup of tea, but with all that buzz how could I not ask for it for Christmas? The Sisters Brothers are Charlie and Eli, a couple of Oregonian hitmen in 1851. They are ruthless, they are well known and they are not terribly close.
The more time that passes since I’ve read it (this was my final book in 2011) the more fond I grow of it. Initially, when I finished it, I was left wanting more. I felt like it just ended, and like a true 21st Centurian, I wanted more instant gratification. I wanted everything to be resolved in a neat little package for me. Preferably with a bow. But that’s not how DeWitt operates.
This book is chock full of characters. And when I say characters I don’t just mean that there are a lot of names, I mean that there are a lot of crazy, original, often hilarious, characters. There is the weeping man that weaves his way in and out of the story, the kid they find with the abandoned wagons, the hotel magnate who obviously doesn’t know who he is dealing with and there are Charlie and Eli themselves.
Eli is pretty introspective for a hitman. He has a crappy horse, who he begins to feel a kinship for, even though riding on him is not easy. His brother treats him like crap and doesn’t seem to have the same moral issues as Eli when it comes to doing their job.
I admit freely that this was my first Western. I enjoyed it. It was different. There were parts of it that I didn’t really get, but maybe some more rumination, or even a second read will clear them up. DeWitt has a couple of ‘Intermissions’ – a cool idea for a book. Not sure that I have ever come across that before. But I didn’t understand the content, I felt like I was missing something. Maybe I was.
Overall, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I know better than the brilliant folks who sit on the award panels. Clearly The Sisters Brothers is something special. And it was recently released in paperback, which makes it that much easier to pick up.