Monday, 30 July 2012

Devouring Books: The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt

"I followed her through the beaded curtain and into her private world. The beads felt lovely and tickling on my face, and I experienced a shudder of happiness at this. It is true, I thought. I am living a life."

One of the very best things about book blogging is that it forces encourages you to pick up books taht you might never have even considered reading. Had I read a description of The Sisters Brothers basically anywhere 'two assassin brothers in the Wild West set off to kill their next victim' etc etc, I probably would have gone 'meh, Westerns' (having never read a Western, by the way) and moved onto the next book. Fortunately for me, Alice and Megs got there first, and their praise was so incredibly glowing that I thought, well, maybe there's something in it after all. Apparently I didn't trust them enough to actually buy the book, (I got it out of the library) but hey, I still read it!

And it truly is kind of wonderful. It is a Western, but as much as it's that, it's also a character study of Eli, one of the assassins who is maybe not so sure about what he's doing anymore. He travels alongside his much more inscrutable brother Charlie, (who is inscrutable both to Eli and to the reader, who only has Eli's thoughts to go on) but the fact that we don't know much about Charlie's innermost thoughts (if, indeed, he has any besides 'where is the booze and the ladies?') is fine because Eli is so amazing.

Seriously, I could write a whole book about how much I love Eli (and in a way that's exactly what DeWitt has done) but I'll try and be brief here. Eli is a complex guy in many ways, but it's clear that a) killing doesn't really come naturally to him, and furthermore he doesn't really like it, and b) he'd much rather be living a simple life, and running a shop or something. It's especially awesome that we know this about Eli, because viewing him through basically any other character, he'd seem pretty intimidating, being a notorious criminal and all, but because we're privy to his thoughts, we know exactly how much of a softie he actually, intrinsically, is.

I mean, seriously. Eli's horse is distinctly below par, but because he doesn't want to hurt its feelings, he can't bring himself to buy a new one. He falls in love with every woman he comes into contact with (in an adorable, giving them money way, as opposed to a creepy, stalkerish way) and, in his head at least, he's an all round good egg. Because we are also in his head, it's easy to ignore the bad things he does, and even easier to want to squeeze his little (big, intimidating) face, and cuddle him all day long! Honestly, I don't think I've come across a more compelling narrator since Charlie from The Perks of Being A Wallflower, and that is saying a lot because, damn, I really love that kid!

So, with such a compelling character, I'd be ok if the actual story of The Sisters Brothers wasn't so hot, but hey, whaddaya know, the story is also consistently awesome. I love a good journey in a book, and this has that, along with some fighting, killing, and unexpected but wholly welcome meditations on what it means to be human. Essentially, it's a perfect combination of a fairly straightforward Western adventure story, with a more highbrow look at the human condition- it never goes too far in either direction, and the result is a book that both entertains and resonates, in a way that so few books manage to do. And that, my friends, is what you call being an excellent writer.

In conclusion, read this, read this, read this! And if you are Alley, I'm pretty sure that you're obligated BY LAW to read this now. I haven't taken my copy back to the library yet, and I"m not sure I can... I'm very attached and might need to secure my own copy before relinquishing this one. THAT'S HOW GOOD, PEOPLE!

28 comments:

  1. I hear nothing but goog things about this and I'm still kind of skeptical. It's the Western thing. I just read All the Pretty Horses though, so this might be a good time for it.

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    1. Don't worry about the Western thing! It's hardly a thing! It's just a side thing because DeWitt had to put this awesome character *somewhere* and hey, why not the wild west?! Seriously, this is the greatest thing!

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    2. I just realized I said goog. I shouldn't use my iPad to comment on blogs.

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  2. I actually love westerns, but have only read one western author, Louis LAmour (he's awesome btw) anyway, I think I'm going to check this one out, I haven't read a western in awhile and you are raving about this one, so I think I'll have to try it! Thanks :)

    -Kate the Book Buff
    I'm Back! Cue the Cheers! Or Cue the Cricket Chirps?

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    1. Oh good, I hope you like it! I haven't read ANY other Westerns at all, so even though I think of this as a really atypical one, it might not be at all! I have no idea!

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  3. Even if I was obligated to read this book, I super want to. I looked before and it wasn't available on the Kindle and I couldn't find it in the bookstore (ie, it didn't fall into my outstretch hand). BUT I see it's available now so I WILL be reading it soon. Probably right after I read How To Be A Woman...

    If it wasn't for the reviews from you, Alice and Megs, I probably would skip this cos Westerns? Meh

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    1. FOR SERIOUS HOW HAVE YOU NOT READ THIS BY NOW

      I think if there's a book that three of us love, the other people have to read it too. So sayeth the Great Spider. (I am so sorry -- I've been watching an obscene amount of South Park)

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    2. YES Alice! This is so true. We all agree with each other so much anyway that it seems like a fair bet that we'll all love awesome books that are awesome. Obviously.

      Alley, READ HOW TO BE A WOMAN! Totally more important. But this is truly truly awesome and now we are all holding our breath that you like it otherwise we have FAILED you (OR, you have sucky taste... but that can't be true!) Also, meh Westerns is totally my viewpoint. Like, it kind of still is even after reading this, because I assume most Westerns are nothing like this. OR ARE THEY?!

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    3. The four of us are quickly becoming a book cult. It's only a matter of time before we're sacrificing children's board books to the Book Gods.

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  4. Sisters Brotheeeeers!

    I am still crazy in love with this book, so I don't think i can look at it objectively at all. I just want to hug its face off. But I'm SO glad you liked it, because I've heard from at least three people who didn't and I so don't get that. I think it's if you don't like the more stark, no-contractions-at-all Western style, then you won't be into it. But whatevs, totally awesome.

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    1. I barely even noticed the style! I mean, I did because I was like 'you're allowed to say can't and don't you know. And also you're!' but I really didn't care because Eliiiiiii! He's so amazing and adorable and I love him forevs!

      Let's hug the faces off it and then be sad together that our books have no faces. You know, like the normal people do.

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  5. I keep looking at this in Waterstone's and thinking 'meh, Westerns' (also having never read a Western) but it's definitely going on the TBR now! The bit about Eli and his horse made me giggle so I had to try to explain to Rhys why I was giggling, and he just ended up looking a bit puzzled...

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    1. Ohh, poor Rhys! It seems that together we confuse him a lot... hehe. I love how everyone is literally just like 'meh Westerns' even though we've never read any, what is that all about?! I still think this isn't like a normal Western, but it may well be and I just don't know it cause I haven't read any others! But no others have Eli in!

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  6. I think this is one is already on my WishList...just keeps getting pushed back. I'll definitely move it on up now...I like a tough guy with a heart ;)

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    1. That's exactly Eli!!! Oh man, you'll love this then :) Move it to the TOP of your list cause it's the awesomest :D

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  7. This is the best book I read last year (and it won the Tournament of Books!). I'm super-thrilled you loved it!

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    1. :D :D :D This may well be the best book I've read this year! Probably the best contemporary book... Although I did just discover Murakami. Hmmm... SO MANY GOOD BOOKS THIS YEAR! But yeah, this is so great, glad you liked it too!

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  8. I've read one other Western novel, and I liked it. And I like assassins, so I thought this would be a win for me... but it was not. I think Eli was too much of a wuss for me, and his brother kind of annoying, and I was bored. *waits for stones to be thrown*

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    1. You did not just call Eli a wuss! Whuuuuut?! He would totally shoot your face off for doing that- I mean, he wouldn't enjoy it, but he'd do it. And so he's not a wuss!!! WEEEEEEEEEP!

      But fair enough that you didn't like it, that's cool. But Eli is the greaaaaatest!!!!!!!!!!! (Exclamation points make things more true...)

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  9. *sigh* Your post made me pick the book up and basically read most of it again instead of working like I'm supposed to be right now. WHY IS IT SO GOOD?

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    1. You're so welcome Megs. For reals. I don't know why it's so good, but it is SO GOOD! Because I heart Eli SO MUCH! EEEEEEEEEEEEE! *reads it all over again*

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  10. This review reminds me that I really need to pick up The Perks of Being a Wallflower from my shelf! And get this book from the library/bookstore, too, clearly.

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  11. Gahhh, I've heard so many good things. I'm reading this as soon as I get to Texas. Done. It shall be so.

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  12. This is such a brilliant book. I also loved it. Everybody should read it!
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  13. I enjoyed reading The Weird Sisters, and I'm looking forward to Eleanor Brown's next book.

    Charmaine Smith (More about - Affordable Maui Hawaii Wedding Packages)

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    1. Weird Sisters/Sisters Brothers. Same dif

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  14. His writing style is very sparse and very dry -- appropriate to the subject matter. The characters aren't particular likeable but they are fascinating and I found myself compelled to keep reading to see what would happen to them. Not like a mystery, but to see how they would respond to the different situations they encounter. It's sort of reminded me of Mark Twain, but with a more ominous undertone.
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