Book: The Sisters Brothers

Author: Patrick Dewitt

Rating: 4.5/5

The Sisters Brothers-Patrick Dewitt

Set in the American West in the 1850s, this Western styled novel combines humor and dark tragedy and tells the tale of Eli and Charlie Sisters - paid assassins with a heart. When we meet them, they have just been hired by the Commodore to travel from Oregon City to San Francisco to murder prospector Hermann Warm, who is described to them as a "thief". Needless to say, things are not as they seem, and when they meet Warm, he claims to have found a chemical that makes gold glow. This is too tempting for the brothers who decide to betray the commodore and team up with the man they were paid to murder. Plot twists abound, and this funny, yet brutal story has unexpected twists and turns. Will the commodore hunt them down? Can this possible end happily for the Sisters brothers?


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Social/Historical context:

Inspired by a Time–Life book on the California Gold Rush, which DeWitt found at a yard sale, this novel really brings this period of history to life. You get a real sense of what life was like for those prospectors crazy enough to leave everything behind in the search for gold. We go along for the ride and witness the harsh geography and difficult climate faced by the men caught by the spell for gold. Brought to life with simple, yet vivid vocabulary choices, the novel cleverly combines realistic dialect with thoughtful characterizations. We learn that Charlie is a criminal with a heart and his vulnerability is portrayed beautifully with first person dialogue. Clearly, he wants to change and this is a lesson for us all – the choices we make in life lead to consequences, but we can bring about change if we really try.


Writing Style:

Almost film-like, this novel is very original with an intimate first person narrative perspective allowing the reader to fully connect with the characters. The story swings between past and present allowing for us to see what happened in the lead up to the "job" and experience the life of the brothers before they began killing for money.


My Thoughts:

I loved this darkly comic tale of greed and humanity. The characters were believable and the story utterly compelling. At times, violent and bloody, the story combines a lesson about love and family with the cruel reality of life in the North American gold rush. The story stays with you long after reading – an after taste that is sour yet incredibly satisfying.


Book Reviewed by Maria Izdebski

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