The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

[rating=4] ‘The Sisters Brothers’ is a classic Western tale of two infamous gun-slinging brothers and their misadventures as they ride from Oregon to California with a few twists along the way. I relished the deadpan delivery and strange developments from page one to the end.

Frankly, my enjoyment of this book is nothing short of a miracle, considering my appalled reactions to animal violence in Steinbeck’s ‘The Red Pony’ and eyeball-removal in David Sedaris’s ‘Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk’. You get all that and much, much more grossness here, but I assure you despite the mounting violence it is still a worthwhile read.

Quiet humor mixes up with brutal beauty in these tales. One moment you’re laughing at a tubby gunslinger trying to go on a diet while riding through border towns on the frontier. The next, you’re cowering in fear from a hungry bear or witnessing the madness of panning for gold. This is true adventure: villians, narrow escapes, brothers fighting, horses, a quest for a magical invention. Good stuff.

The calm and philosophical voice of the narrator was so compelling that he carried me safely through many distressing moments, including several that rank 10 out of 10 on my personal Nasty Scale: venomous spider bites, primitive dentistry, bullies, bad coffee, and of course, eye damage.

Terrific cowboy dialogue (especially in the first 100 pages) rife with dry humor kept me laughing through grim events, and great pacing moved the plot along quickly. Could have done without the creepy “Intermission” sections, did not feel they contributed in any positive or informative way.

Decent ending; not too dark, not too syrupy. A fast read, 3 days or less. The story has stuck with me.

Liked this? You might also enjoy: Michael Ondaatje’s ‘The Collected Works of Billy the Kid’, Bruce Campbell in ‘Adventures of Brisco County Jr’, Joss Whedon’s ‘Firefly’, Deadwood, Carnival, Sergio Leone, Griffin & Sabine, or the video game ‘Red Dead Redemption’.

4 of 5 stars / bookshelves: Canadian, read, 328 pages, Publisher: Granta Books (May 1 2011)
Read from January 14 to 18, 2012.

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