The Sisters Brothers

(2011)
The Sisters Brothers

I really loved this book! One of the blurbs on the back references Charles Portis, and the voice of this story's narrator, Eli Sisters, reminded me very much of the narrator of True Grit. I feel like I got to know Eli better, and liked this story better than True Grit, not that they need to be compared as they are both enjoyable stories. But, if I'm left with only the two books to read and have to choose one to read first, this would be the one.

Eli and Charlie set out from Oregon City on a mission to assassinate a man for the Commodore, who claims the man stole from him. The story is the journey to get to that man, with a lengthy satisfying resolution afterward. Along the way, the brothers engage in a couple scuffles, Eli grows attached to his horse as well as tooth powder and brushing his teeth. Charlie frequently gets drunk and rides hungover.

It's the character of Eli that keeps the story going. His narration provides insights on his growth, and the evolution of his character will resonate easily with readers. He's a quiet character that comes off as simple to others he encounters, despite his complexity. But his simple actions make him so human--he falls for women he's only just met, diets on a whim, is hurt by cutting words from his older brother who he still looks up to, and goes into a rage when he loses his temper.

Combine all that with deWitt's skill in composing scenes. There tends to be only one scene in a chapter, which can make them very short and create an episodic effect when reading. It's almost like a well-done television series in that each chapter could be an enjoyable story on its own, but the larger story arc of the characters has you return for each episode.

DeWitt paints humorous, tense, gruesome, and violent scenes with equal skill, keeping a consistent tone and avoiding exaggeration. It's very skillfully done, and I love how easily shifts would occur. One moment you're chuckling at the image of Eli brushing his teeth with another enthusiastic convert to tooth powder, and the next you're fearful about how he could behave toward her.

I'd recommend this title to any lover of fiction. Even though it is a Western story, its character-driven nature should make the story appeal to readers who avoid the genre. And the jacket art definitely helps to sell it as "not your grandfather's western" (although he'd probably enjoy it, too).

The Sisters Brothers is also available in Large Print, Audiobook on CD, and Downloadable audio.

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