The Sisters Brothers, by Patrick deWitt (2011)

Genre: Western
Interest level: Adult
The Sisters BrothersI had this in my hand from my local library’s paperback rack early this summer. I didn’t have time, made a note of the title, and put it back. Big mistake. I kept looking for it and it was always out. Then it was nominated for the Giller, the Governor-General’s Award, and the Man Booker Prize. Onto the waitlist I went. It finally arrived this month, after it won the GG, and finished on the shortlist for the Booker. Set in 1890s Oregon and California, it’s the story of Eli and Charlie Sisters, hired guns. Eli, chubby and shy, is starting to question his killing ways. He wants to give up killing and open a general store, because deep down, despite his temper and strength, he is simply not the fighter his brother is: “[I] spent the rest of the night rewriting lost arguments from my past, altering history so that I emerged victorious.” This isn’t a duster – it’s more like the Coen Brothers make a western. Quirky characters, hilarious moments and moral conflicts dominate. The violence is only occasional, but when it appears it’s brutal and shockingly casual. I think deWitt has set a new bar, creating what one might call the post-modernist western. Highly recommended, but prepare yourself for remorseless cruelty.

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