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The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt is a western set during the Californian Gold Rush. It follows the story of Eli and Charlie Sisters, two brothers with short tempers and a certain knack for violence.

Killing the Commodore’s enemies has earned them a bloody reputation and a comfortable living, but a bad job and the death of their faithful no-name horses has left Eli Sisters questioning his way of life. Naturally reserved and considerate almost to a fault, Eli dreams of settling down and opening a shop selling goods in a nice town with a nice woman. But he is bulky, a little awkward, and doesn’t know how to act around the opposite sex. One more job, he tells himself, and he’ll give it all up.

That job is Hermann Kermit Warm, a speculator, entrepreneur, and just another man the Commodore wants dead. It’s not their job to question why he is to be killed. But when their contact goes missing and they learn the full story curiosity gets the better of them, as does the lure of gold.

The novel follows Eli and Charlie on the road from Oregon to California, where they come across a host of people all trying to get on in the world. There’s a crying man who stumbles on alone, an old witch, a mysterious young girl, a boy who seems destined for misfortune, killers, thieves, and pretty, well-spoken women whom Eli can’t help but fall for.

He’s a strange character, Eli. At once you feel very fond of him and sorry for him at the same time, which is funny considering he’s a hired killer. It’s his conscience that does it. He has feelings, he gets his heart broken and his hopes toyed with, and in his relationship with his brother Eli is vulnerable as a child, scared that he loves Charlie more and in a way that can’t be reciprocated.

Because Charlie is everything Eli is not; bold, daring, well-built, with a passion and an energy that inspires admiration. He is older than Eli and has a troubled past, killing their abusive father, drinking too much whiskey and getting into fights that lead to more deaths. And Charlie knows exactly how to manipulate Eli to get the job done, using his love and bad temper as a catalyst for violence. Because he loves his brother Eli is incapable of seeing him come to harm. He becomes fiercely protective, furious that anyone would dare hurt Charlie, and his mild nature is overcome with rage.

It’s easy to see why their relationship drives the story. In a world where trust is dangerous and can get you killed, family is more important than ever. Who can you trust if not your brother?

The Sisters Brothers is an outstanding book, a novel with an actual story to tell, a rollicking adventure tale and a moral drama of good, bad, and everything in between. It’s a book about the little people just trying to get by with the hand they’ve been dealt. A book about friendship, the hollow quest for fortune, and the things we do for family.


TITLE: The Sisters Brothers

AUTHOR(S): Patrick deWitt


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