I’m most of the way through deWitt’s The Sisters Brothers and since I keep thinking of what I want to say while I’m reading, I thought I better hand myself pen and paper to let it all out. Then maybe I can finished off the book and see what finally happens.
I didn’t think I’d like The Sisters Brothers as much as I have. I’m not a girl who likes Westerns. I didn’t like True Grit. I hated No Company for Old Men, no matter how many awards it won. But! I am a fan of sweet, simple storytelling. Of Victorian manners and mannerisms. Of off-kilter, incongruent gritty comedy a la the Coen brothers. Of cinematic writing. And well-written tales of long, long journeys, especially those that tip their hats and wink saucily at The Odyssey.
That’s pretty much what you’ve got with deWitt’s story. It’s a tale of two brothers, Charlie and Eli Sisters, hired guns travelling from Oregon to California to assassinate a man for their mysterious boss, known only as the Commodore. It’s no so much to kooky adventures they encounter along the way as it was Eli’s ruminating on them. He’s a lonely man who tried to think these great big thoughts that he knows are just outside his reach, only you can’t help but feel for him. In each short chapter, I kept thinking if deWitt had just given Eli a few more pages, then maybe he could have worked his way through it. Because for me, it was Eli, our gentle narrator who is slowly losing his guts for a wild west lifestyle that pulls the story along. And while deWitt does let his characters drive the story instead of just participate in it, I felt like he could have done so much more.
Still, it’s an enjoyable enough read and it’s one that lends itself to being picked up and put down without losing your place in the grand scheme of things. The short vignettes and gorgeous character sketches in each chapter make it great book for parents to tote around to practices and drop-offs, or maybe for fellow readers who only get in a few dozen pages before falling asleep.
3 3/4 out of 5 stars – but I might revise that if this doesn’t end the way I want it to. Of course.