Monday, December 26, 2011

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt

Set in 1851 during the California gold rush, this adventure is told in the introspective voice of Eli Sisters, a gentle-hearted contract killer. His job doesn't suit his temperament, but Eli follows the lead of his more ruthless older brother and partner in crime, Charles. Eli is loyal to Charles, while being aware of his faults. He also has complaints about their shared living arrangement. "Charlie has many unsavory acquaintances. They have no respect for the traditional hours of sleep." Eli himself is prone to sudden rage, but only when confronted by the actions of a bully.

Eli describes mastering a surge of anger: "My pants were still down and after collecting my emotions I took up my organ to compromise myself. As a young man, when my temper was proving problematic, my mother instructed me to do this as a means of achieving calm, and I have found it a useful practice ever since."

The chapters are short and the pace is quick. If you like darkly funny books with a strong sense of place and told in an original voice, you will enjoy The Sisters Brothers as much as I did.

Pair this with True Grit (Charles Portis) for another unusual western, or with In Bruges, a comedy about a couple of hitmen written and directed by Martin McDonagh.

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