The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt was short listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2011 BUT that is not why I put it on my reading wish list. It was the striking cover designed by Portland artist Dan Stiles. Of course I pick books by their covers, don’t we all?
The Sisters Brothers has been dubbed “cowboy noir” by its reading audience. It favors a Coen brothers’ or Quentin Tarantino movie – stark and violent with a dash of humor. Charley and Eli Sisters are the two most feared hit men in the west. They work for the mysterious “Commodore” and are currently on assignment to eliminate Hermann Kermit Warm. They don’t know why Warm is to be killed and they don’t ask, it’s the job and so it must be done.
Charley, the older of the brothers, is ruthless and the leader of the duo. Eli, the narrator of the story, is more introspective, questioning their actions and wondering if there isn’t some other less violent way to live, perhaps being a shopkeeper with a loving wife. He follows his brother into sticky situations resolving them with a shrug and a gun or a knife or whatever weapon happens to be handy. Afterward he ruminates, "… here is another miserable mental image I will have to catalog and make room for." The brothers travel from Oregon City to San Francisco in search of Warm. Along the way they encounter a fair number of quirky characters, one of which happens to be Eli’s handicapped horse, Tub. Gunslingers, fallen women, Indians, prospectors, and stable boys populate their eventful and entertaining travels. In a western cliché, it is well worth the ride.
The book is also available as an audiobook via Library2Go. It is narrated by John Pruden who has just the right tone for sensitive, eloquent Eli.