Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Sisters Brothers (Patrick deWitt)

The Sisters Brothers
Patrick deWitt
HarperCollins
Fiction, Western
**** (Good)


DESCRIPTION: Eli and Charlie Sisters have built a decent reputation as despicable men. Employed by the Commodore out of Oregon City, they travel the rough Western frontier dealing with various problems on the man's behalf - usually with bullets. When they're sent to San Francisco to eliminate an eccentric prospector, it seems like any other job - but Eli's getting tired of this life he never asked for. He starts to question his lawless existence... and a gunman who starts asking questions is a gunman digging his own grave.

REVIEW: This isn't so much a straight Western as it is a somewhat surreal examination of crushed dreams and hopeless dreamers, violent lives and inevitable deaths, and the bonds of love and hate. Black humor and red gore drip from nearly every page. The frontier of the Sisters brothers isn't the promising dream of a new life or the jarring clash of cultures that often appears in other Westerns, but a corrupt and hopeless folly riddled with the corpses of fools, a place that rewards both failure and success with impersonal torment and death, a trap from which only the lucky or the morally bankrupt few escape. Many peculiar characters, often doomed, cross Eli's path, each in their own way acting as guideposts as he navigates the unfamiliar trail toward redemption after many years of simply riding in his brother's wake. As repulsive as some of the episodes could be, and as meandering as the narrative often grew, there was something oddly compelling about it, moments of profound truth and beauty that kept me reading and wanting Eli to succeed, even when it seemed impossible. One review compared it to the Coen brothers film Fargo, and that honestly is about the best comparison I can come up with: a somewhat quirky, often darkly comic examination of good and evil, where violence doesn't need a reason and good people can be caught up in terrible events by a simple turn of indifferent fate. Ultimately, it just squeaked over the line to four stars.

You Might Also Enjoy:
The Ghosts of Belfast (Stuart Neville) - My Review
Six-Shooter Tales (I.J. Parnham) - My Review
Fargo - Amazon DVD link

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