Daily Archives: 08/21/2012

#30: The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

Awesome cover, great book.

This one has been showing up on lots of Read This! lists and I’ve seen tons of CBR reviews for it.  And the cover really is cool.  Not the paperback one though.  Eli is fat, but not on the paperback cover.  Get it together, paperback cover!

My book group picked this one for our August book and it was a nice refreshing read after our two months of Orwell.  Nothing like a Gold Rush setting where everyone might die to make you forget about a dystopian setting where everyone might die.

The Sisters brothers are Charlie and Eli.  You do not mess with these two.  They will kill you.  They are famous mercenary killers traveling the west, hunting down the enemies of the Commodore.  Their names alone make people scatter.  No one survives when Charlie and Eli fight.

The book is told from Eli’s POV.  He’s the younger of the two and has been following Charlie since they were kids.  He’s getting a bit tired of the hunt and is thinking it might be nice to settle down.  But they’ve got an assignment, so there’s not much he can do right now except for dream. 

And dream he does.  Eli is a romantic.  Any woman who gives him a smile or pauses for a quick hello becomes the woman of his dreams.  He thinks of the letters he will write to her until he can return to town to collect her.  They will be married and happy while he runs a shop.  Very respectable.  Of course he should probably find out the woman’s name.  Turns out she’s not interested and Charlie’s already been with her.  Because she’s a prostitute.  So disappointing.  But wait… what’s that?  Is there someone new and pretty smiling at Eli?  Well then.  She must be the girl for him!  Oh, the letters he will write to her…

My favorite thing about this book was Eli’s romantic nature.  Here he is, famous killer, off on another adventure with his even more dangerous brother and all he can think about is selling hats.  It must be nice, selling hats.  Set up your house in the back of your store, spend time with customers, light the lamps…  A nice, respectable job where you can have a nice, respectable wife.  And as he’s thinking of this, Charlie works him into a rage and he kills people.  The setting and his voice don’t mesh, and it was wonderful. 

Someone in our book group pointed out that Eli is almost simple-minded.  He’s a bit like a child when it comes to planning.  He decides he wants a shop, but isn’t able to think about what he needs to do to get one.  He never thinks about what his life would be like if he gets out of the killing business.  Does he think people will leave him alone and not try to get revenge?  Does it even occur to him that people want to get revenge on him?  Or is he so caught up in the fact that Charlie has guided his life for so long that he thinks people with revenge on their minds will pass by him on the way to his brother?  There are few clues to help us figure out Eli’s version of what happens when you stop killing.  Except for selling hats.

The book follows the brothers as they seek out their latest target.  They have crazy adventures throughout that are wonderful studies in the two different personalities.  Where Eli will spend pages with his mind spinning out romance and back story of what was and will be, Charlie takes half a pause to figure out where he can get a bath and a bottle.  I get the feeling that for every one of Charlie’s thoughts, Eli has one hundred.  And very little of them have to do with reality.  He’s not simple-minded, but he is sort of simple.

Charlie is an unsympathetic character, although he has moments where you start to understand why he is the way he is.  For the most part, he does things if they will make his life easier.  He doesn’t seem to have much of an end goal for things, other that to keep killing because it’s what he’s good at.  It would be nice to have power and money like the Commodore, but…  well, there’s a problem there.  You can’t 100% hate Charlie or the book wouldn’t work, but you’re glad it isn’t told from his POV.

I really liked the ending of this one.  My mind kept jumping around as I tried to figure out what was going to happen.  With Charlie’s personality, something major had to happen, but I couldn’t figure out what.  I plotted out a few different endings and wondered which path deWitt would take.  I actually felt nervous because I didn’t want people to get hurt, but couldn’t see a way around it. 

Things do get messy, but I like the mess and the way Eli handles it.  I was very happy with the ending.

We found out that John C. Reilly‘s production company has bought the film rights, which is awesome.  I hope he plays Eli, because he would be perfect.  I wish I knew that before reading the book because I would have pictured him as Eli the entire time. 

As an added bonus, this book will make you want to brush your teeth for the pure joy of brushing your teeth.