Friday, July 29, 2011
THE SISTERS BROTHERS by Patrick deWitt (2011) House of Anansi Press, 325 pages
THE SISTERS BROTHERS is one of three titles published by House of Anansi Press that made it to the storied Man Booker Prize longlist this week, a prize that rewards the best book of fiction published in the Commonwealth. Canadian novelist Michael Helm (one of my favourite contemporary writers) has this to say about DeWitt's book:
"In perfect measures of light, darkness and firelit reflections, THE SISTERS BROTHERS engagingly renews the comic novel in a spirit by turns lawless and corrective. This ever-surprising story is dead serious fun."
Narrated by Eli Sisters, this picaresque meets the Wild West tale is all that Helm gestures to and more. There's a hit out on the life of Hermann Kermit Warm, ordered by the enigmatic and threatening Commodore who has hired Eli and Charlie Sisters for the task. They are on their way to San Francisco, where the Commodore's scout, "a dandy named Henry Morris," has gone ahead to gather information about Warm who "pays for his whiskey with raw gold dust that he keeps in a leather pouch worn on a long string, hidden in the folds of his many-layered clothing." Charlie is heartened by the news and tells his brother, "It's a good place to kill someone, I have heard. When they are not busily burning the entire town down, they are distracted by its endless rebuilding."
And, so begins their cross country journey in the company of their horses, Nimble and Tub, a journey that is complicated by toothaches and tempers and temporary fits of loneliness throughout which you'll meet eccentric hoteliers, doctors, hookers and ordinary folk trying to get by. All the while, you will wonder, like Eli "about the difficulties of family, how crazy and crooked the stories of a bloodline can be." And, you will continually redefine your notions about good and evil as the tale unwinds to its unexpectedly moving conclusion.
Find out what the fuss is about and pick up THE SISTERS BROTHERS, marveling at DeWitt's muscular prose and respect for delivering a tale well told.