Sisters Brothers- Patrick deWitt

I picked this book up at the insistence of a friend, and did so sight unseen. I was home with the book in my hand when I discovered that the book was a western- a genre I’ve never cared much for, even reading the works of that genre’s champions. Despite my reluctance I persevered through it.

This book follows the titular brothers, a pair of old west cutthroats on the American west coast as they go through a job to track someone down. To complete their task, they go through several misadventures that explore their relationship with the world around them as well as their relationship with each other.

Something about this book felt excessively unrealistic. The problem was that it just so happened to be the humor of the book. Or perhaps unrealistic isn’t the right problem, and what the issue was that this scenes were out of place. I am really not sure what it was, but all the scenes about brushing and about dieting seemed, well a little off. Both of these activities existed then, but it is hard to imagine this particular demographic of people engaging in the activity. Maybe if they were living in Paris, New York or some other such city you could see it happening, but I cant imagine two hired guns out in what is then still the frontier of America being either preoccupied or aware. And I get that the diet was largely played for laughs, but something in the fact that it was spoken about much the same way we might just made it come off as far fetched. The whole thing put me off on those scenes.

As well, the book seems to have more tell moments than show, particularly regarding the brother’s reputation as bloodthirsty hired guns. As an audience we hear so much more about the reputation of these two then we ever actually see in them regarding the performance of their tasks. Half way through the book I found myself wondering why exactly they did have such a reputation at all, enough so as to consider backtracking to see if I missed anything. .

But the book did have the virtue of a strong narrating voice that kept you interested in what was going on in the story, and most of the chapters were short enough to be read in a short sitting. As someone not terribly familiar with the genre, this made the book a lot easier to start, and kept me working at it at a signifcant clip till I had it finished.

Frankly, I have no idea. And I am happy this way.

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