Thursday, 29 September 2011
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt **possible spoilers ahead**
We open by being introduced to our narrator, Eli, as he contemplates his current situation - his last horse died in a fire with "his kicking, burning legs, his hot-popping eyeballs" (if you don't like vivid descriptions, this may not be the book for you) and he has been lumbered with some slow replacement appropriately called 'Tub'. This is a despised but necessary horse that Eli eventually feels a connection to, even passing up a better steed out of sympathy for his companion.
Eli is obviously not meant to be a killer, as opposed to his brother, but instead wishes for a quieter life and a woman to share it with. At the same time he does not wish to leave his brother, for he feels a closeness to him that is unreciprocated. Charlie, however, appears more self-centred and has his sights set on becoming the next Commodore and making his fortune. Though they are brothers it is made blatantly obvious from the outset that these two are not alike - “our blood is the same, we just use it differently”.
DeWitt has decided to take us on a journey of at least two paths: One follows Eli, in his head, as he has to make the decision as to whether to keep on with his life as it is or if he should follow his wish for an easier, more stable life. The onset of his moral compass can be said to have a hand in how he starts dealing with people and carrying out his actions and job. The second looks at the bond between the two brothers as they travel across a landscape filled with weird, wonderful and unsavoury characters and having to both face the fact that what they believe in is going to be questioned as well as Eli's own questions of what they are really doing.
This is all set against the rather hostile background of the wild west with fortunes constantly raising at one point only to be savagely and unexpectedly taken away from them at another; but it all culminates in a lesson in morality with a rather hoped for content ending that has the pair returning to their home as all good long-suffering travellers should.
Just as with the original Odyssey, every chapter is a tale within itself, written with a rather poetic feel to it without losing focus.
I would happily describe this book as a western style odyssey with all the strange elements and characters that come with it. If you enjoy a western with a twist of dark humour and slight revelations then I would recommend this book to you.