Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt

The Sisters Brothers
by Patrick DeWitt is the literary equivalent of the winner in the Miss America pageant. She deserves to win because she looks fantastic in evening wear, her smile never wavers and she cares about shut-ins, but it's all just a little too much sugar. I like a little wrong with my right. I like the literary equivalent of Miss Canada, peeking her head out and awkwardly waving from behind the curtain.

I have to admit, this book is very hard to review. All I can really think to say was good. This isn't meant as a backhanded compliment in the least, good is good. Good is solid, good is satisfying, good is good. I'm not surprised that it's been nominated for awards. But good isn't the type of thing that makes you want to get up and run around the park or tongue kiss the person sitting next to you. DeWitt makes all the right editorial choices and while the plot is definitely not sugar-coated or safe (i.e. Tub the horse's eyeball extraction with a spoon), something about the entirety of the book was just so...perfect. Everything from the cover design to the fully realized characters to the pacing and tension was an out-of-the-park home run. But if every hit is a home run, the magic can start to wane. Ultimately, this book was just a little too fantastic and therefore, there isn't much to discuss.

On the cover of the book, there is a quote by Gil Adamson that cites The Sisters Brothers as "A bright, brutal revision of the Western." Even though terms like revision can easily be lumped in with other useless terms used in book reviews (my personal least favourite being tour de force), Adamson offers the best explanation of what this novel does. The Sisters Brothers is undoubtedly Western in its motifs, but the focus of the story weighs heavily on the fraternal tension between Eli and Charlie and how their personalities, Charlie's cool insouciance and Eli's soft-heartedness, both complement and segregate them from one another.

So going back to my earlier comment of "there isn't much to discuss". So yeah. It was really, really good.

P.S. What does tour de force mean anyway? Whatever it means, I'm sure The Sisters Brothers is one.

P.P.S. I'm sorry, this was a dreadful review. It's very hard to review something you thought was great and didn't need to change in anyway. Am I right?


  1. You are probably the wittest person I know. Thank you for being witty, hilarious and overall fantastic.

  2. What a lovely thing to say! I enjoy doing it and I am so lucky to have people like you who read it and (hopefully) enjoy it! So now I can say that someone from Simon and Schuster is interested in my writing...!