book review: the sisters brothers

Patrick DeWitt’s western, The Sisters Brothers is, for me, a lighter version of a Cormac McCarthy novel. An acquaintance of mine had it pushed to her as a hilarious, funniest book ever kind of thing and it set her up for immense disappointment. I mean, it is funny but in a dry, dark, taking horrible things seriously kind of way. I can’t remember if the Coen brothers comparison is on the cover of the book (mine was an e-copy) but it’s funny in the Fargo way, not The Big Lebowski.

In any case the story is about a couple of bounty-hunting brothers (whose last name is Sisters, which makes this another addition to the collection of books that cause misreadings of their titles based on imagined apostrophes – my favourite other example being Vernor Vinge’s Rainbows End) going down from Oregon to San Francisco to kill a guy. There are shitty horses and merciful decisions and badass gunfighting (badass in the brutal “there ain’t nothing honourable about shooting a man” kind of way), and it definitely fits in the picture of the time painted by Deadwood or Unforgiven.

I liked it, but anyone selling it as a funny book is emphasizing the wrong aspects, I think. It’s a story of brutality and masculinity. And it has a great cover.

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