Reviewed by Krista Castner

Reading The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt is the literary equivalent of watching a film by the Coen brothers. It is filled with dark humor and unexpected plot twists. It’s a western, a buddy story, and a noir-comedy that makes you stop and think about what living in the American West during the 1850’s might really have been like. Charlie and Eli Sisters are the notorious Sisters Brothers. They are hired guns working for the Commodore out of Oregon City, Oregon. When he sends them off to kill Hermann Kermit Warm in San Francisco, all sort of mayhem ensues.

Older brother Charlie is much more of a sociopath than Eli. Eli is pulled along by circumstances and his familial loyalty to his brother. He kills when he has to but his heart really isn’t in it. He dreams of settling down and being a shopkeeper one day. On their quest to find Hermann Warm, they meet all sorts of people, and circumstances that throw obstacles in their way. Most of the situations are rectified by the strong use of violence. Dead bodies are strewn along the path from Oregon City to San Francisco and beyond to the outback of the gold fields.

I haven’t read too many Westerns, but this story seems to portray a West that might have been. I live about five miles from Oregon City today, and the little glimpses of 1851 Oregon City that The Sisters Brothers provided rang true for what I know about Oregon City history.

The plotline of The Sisters Brothers isn’t one that I usually gravitate toward, but somehow it all works. This book was witty and funny and touching despite the violence and spots of crudeness which was totally in keeping with the characters and the situations they found themselves in.

Rating: 4/5

Krista lives just outside the urban sprawl of Portland, Oregon. Lamentably, her work as a technical writer and business analyst often interferes with her reading which is a true passion.

The review copy of this book was provided free of any obligation by Ecco. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.