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The Sisters Brothersby Patrick deWitt
2012 Oregon Book Award for Fiction
This entertaining and heartbreaking story is told by a fabulous narrator, Eli Sisters. Eli and his brother Charlie are hired killers in late 19th-century Oregon and California, and this is the tale of their final job.
Where to start with this strange little book? The Sisters Brothers are a pair of killers-for-hire: Charlie, the hard-boiled pragmatist of the pair; Eli, the reluctant, sensitive softy. Assigned their next hit, the pair begins a long and winding journey which leads them in a wildly atypical direction: they befriend their "hit" and events diverge from the normal sordid path. Packed with quirky, dark humor and razor-sharp character studies, The Sisters Brothers presents an unusual treat: a pair of killers with whom you cannot help but sympathize. Just embrace the peculiarity here. Offbeat, idiosyncratic, and odd, this is one novel you won't soon forget.
Synopses & Reviews
Shortlisted for the Booker Prize
Hermann Kermit Warm is going to die. The enigmatic and powerful man known only as the Commodore has ordered it, and his henchmen, Eli and Charlie Sisters, will make sure of it. Though Eli doesn't share his brother's appetite for whiskey and killing, he's never known anything else. But their prey isn't an easy mark, and on the road from Oregon City to Warm's gold-mining claim outside Sacramento, Eli begins to question what he does for a living — and whom he does it for.
With The Sisters Brothers, Patrick deWitt pays homage to the classic Western, transforming it into an unforgettable comic tour de force. Filled with a remarkable cast of characters — losers, cheaters, and ne'er-do-wells from all stripes of life — and told by a complex and compelling narrator, it is a violent, lustful odyssey through the underworld of the 1850s frontier that beautifully captures the humor, melancholy, and grit of the Old West and two brothers bound by blood, violence, and love.
"[The Sisters Brothers] is full of surprises, among them...is the quirky beauty of the language Patrick deWitt has devised for his narrator.... The Sisters Brothers is deWitt's second novel...and is an inventive and ingenious character study. It will make you impatient for the third." Dallas Morning News
"Funny and strange [and] oddly warm...you'll find yourself ashamedly pulling for the brothers Sisters like you did for Jules and Vinnie in Pulp Fiction." Outside magazine
"Sharp and wondrous...[a] funny, oddly moving novel." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"Mesmerizing... The book seduces us to its characters, and draws us on the strength of deWitt's subtle, nothing-wasted prose. He writes with gorgeous precision about the grotesque: an amputation, a gouged eye, a con in a dive bar, a nauseating body count [without] macho brutishness." Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Original, entrancing and entertaining." Denver Post
"A twisted delight...Familiar, yes, but never not fresh. Also: creepy and sometimes inscrutable, gory with multiple amputations, rollicking and wistful and roundly winning." Austin Chronicle
"Weirdly funny, startlingly violent and steeped in sadness... It's all rendered irresistible by Eli Sisters, who narrates with a mixture of melancholy and thoughtfulness." Washington Post
"Cinematic, wry and mannered.... Just as much as The Sisters Brothers is about a killing, it's also about the difficulty of holding on to or setting aside all the things a killer has to convince himself of to make his life palatable." Philadelphia City Paper
"Both homage to the classic Western and knife thrust to its dark underbelly, this novel has a quirky, deadpan exterior and a hard-beating heart; we come to see how men die and how the brotherly bond shifts but holds.... I was intrigued by page one." Library Journal
"The brothers' punchily poetic banter and the book's bracing bursts of violence keep this campfire yarn pulled taut." The Onion AV Club
"Patrick deWitt's latest novel, The Sisters Brothers [evokes]... a feeling you revel in the re-creation of even more than you would enjoy going back to the original experience at its source." The Stranger
"DeWitt creates a homage to life in the Wild West but at the same time reveals its brutality." Kirkus Reviews
"[A] thrilling, smart and surprisingly touching read...visual and visceral...always compelling and surprising." BookPage
"Thrilling...a lushly voiced picaresque story...so richly told, so detailed, that what emerges is a weird circus of existence, all steel shanks and ponies, gut shots and medication poured into the eyeholes of the dying. At some level, this too is a kind of revenge story, marvelously blurry." Esquire
"By turns hilarious, graphic and meditative, The Sisters Brothers hooked me from page one all the way to 300 — and I could have stayed on for many more." NPR.org
"If you're looking for an unforgettable western, grab this one." Monday Mag
"Portland author Patrick DeWitt has hit on a sure-fire road to success." Portland Book Review
"DeWitt's The Sisters Brothers is a glorious picaresque Western; everything about this book is stylish, from its conceit to its cover design making it a truly worthy inclusion on the shortlist." Daily Beast
"DeWitt's exploitations of the picaresque form are striking, and he has a wonderful way of exercising his comic gifts without ever compromising the novel's gradual accumulation of darkness, disgust, and foreboding." The Millions
Patrick deWitt, a young writer whose "stop-you-in-your-tracks writing has snuck up on the world" (Los Angeles Times), brings us The Sisters Brothers, a darkly comic, outrageously inventive novel that offers readers a decidedly off-center view of the Wild, Wild West. Set against the back-drop of the great California Gold Rush, this odd and wonderful tour de force at once honors and reshapes the traditional western while chronicling the picaresque misadventures of two hired guns, the fabled Sisters brothers. The most original western since the Coen Brothers re-interpreted True Grit — you've never met anyone quite like The Sisters Brothers.
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