REVIEW -- The Sisters Brothers - Patrick deWitt

The Sisters Brothers - Patrick deWitt

THE SISTERS BROTHERS is a novel written like a bottle of whiskey. 


It uses a precise and refined set of ingredients to create something that is incendiary in purpose, violent in intent, and will make you drunk on words.


SISTERS BROTHERS is a beautiful book, although it is not one of my all-time favorites. 


It is the story of two brothers in the 1800s who have the "singular employment" of killing people for hire. They are the protoypical bad guys in a Western novel, and would be at home in any Cormac McCarthy novel, most notably Blood Meridian. 


The book is a startling expose of the need of the human heart for connection and purpose even in the midst of blood, violence and destruction. Although the book is, at times, simply hilarious, it becomes, by the end, a very sad story that tears at you and will not let you sleep. 


It is not, for me at least, a particularly memorable book, although it is extremely well written. But I think that's mostly because I've already nearly memorized portions of Cormac McCarthy's oeuvre and Pete Dexter's DEADWOOD is like a Bible to me. I find Dexter's work more inventive and more powerful that deWitt.


I profoundly enjoyed the vocabulary of Sisters Brothers, but by the end of the book it felt wearing and artificial. No one, least of all layabouts and murderers in the Old West, ever spoke in this refined manner in public. It is an interesting choice to have his characters talk in exactly the same vocabularly he uses in his descriptions and narrative summaries. William Faulkner and Pete Dexter make quite different choices in their books, and I think their books are ultimately more successful for that choice.