The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

Description: 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.

Opening: OREGON CITY, 1851: I was sitting outside the Commodore’s mansion, waiting for my brother Charlie to come out with news of the job. It was threatening to snow and I was cold and for want of something to do I studied Charlie’s new horse, Nimble. My new horse was called Tub. We did not believe in naming horses but they were given to us as partial payment for the last job with the names intact, so that was that. Our unnamed previous horses had been immolated, so it was not as though we did not need these new ones but I felt we should have been given money to purchase horses of our own choosing, horses without histories and habits and names they expected to be addressed by. I was very fond of my previous horse and lately had been experiencing visions while I slept of his death, his kicking, burning legs, his hot-popping eyeballs. He could cover sixty miles in a day like a gust of wind and I never laid a hand on him except to stroke him or clean him, and I tried not to think of him burning up in that barn but if the vision arrived uninvited how was I to guard against it?

About time I got around to this. The first line of the description above had me soaking tears into my large linen handkerchief before I even set eyes on the story propre. ‘KERMIT IS GOING TO DIE’…

“I lay in the dark thinking about
the difficulties of family,
how crazy and crooked the stories
of a bloodline can be.”

The above are Eli’s thoughts and indicate his predicament of repressee to brother Charlie’s role of repressor, the lead man.

His tears behind a veil of flowers,
the news came in from town.
The virgin seen near country bower,
in arms of golden down.
His heart mistook her smile for kindness,
and now he pays the cost.
His woman lain in sin, her highness,
endless love is lost.

How lovely it is to be engaging with this read after that horrendous gasping, hyping buzz has died down. I can see The Sister’s Brothers for what it is: amusing, existential, episodic… need I go on? Fun, sad, heart-warming, angry and violent all curled up into a saddle-roll. Recommended, with four beaver rating.

At the end, I just want to say that no western is complete without this visage:


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