"I followed her through the beaded curtain and into her private world. The beads felt lovely and tickling on my face, and I experienced a shudder of happiness at this. It is true, I thought. I am living a life."
One of the very best things about book blogging is that it
forces encourages you to pick up books taht you might never have even considered reading. Had I read a description of The Sisters Brothers basically anywhere 'two assassin brothers in the Wild West set off to kill their next victim' etc etc, I probably would have gone 'meh, Westerns' (having never read a Western, by the way) and moved onto the next book. Fortunately for me, Alice and Megs got there first, and their praise was so incredibly glowing that I thought, well, maybe there's something in it after all. Apparently I didn't trust them enough to actually buy the book, (I got it out of the library) but hey, I still read it!
And it truly is kind of wonderful. It is a Western, but as much as it's that, it's also a character study of Eli, one of the assassins who is maybe not so sure about what he's doing anymore. He travels alongside his much more inscrutable brother Charlie, (who is inscrutable both to Eli and to the reader, who only has Eli's thoughts to go on) but the fact that we don't know much about Charlie's innermost thoughts (if, indeed, he has any besides 'where is the booze and the ladies?') is fine because Eli is so amazing.
Seriously, I could write a whole book about how much I love Eli (and in a way that's exactly what DeWitt has done) but I'll try and be brief here. Eli is a complex guy in many ways, but it's clear that a) killing doesn't really come naturally to him, and furthermore he doesn't really like it, and b) he'd much rather be living a simple life, and running a shop or something. It's especially awesome that we know this about Eli, because viewing him through basically any other character, he'd seem pretty intimidating, being a notorious criminal and all, but because we're privy to his thoughts, we know exactly how much of a softie he actually, intrinsically, is.
I mean, seriously. Eli's horse is distinctly below par, but because he doesn't want to hurt its feelings, he can't bring himself to buy a new one. He falls in love with every woman he comes into contact with (in an adorable, giving them money way, as opposed to a creepy, stalkerish way) and, in his head at least, he's an all round good egg. Because we are also in his head, it's easy to ignore the bad things he does, and even easier to want to squeeze his little (big, intimidating) face, and cuddle him all day long! Honestly, I don't think I've come across a more compelling narrator since Charlie from The Perks of Being A Wallflower, and that is saying a lot because, damn, I really love that kid!
So, with such a compelling character, I'd be ok if the actual story of The Sisters Brothers wasn't so hot, but hey, whaddaya know, the story is also consistently awesome. I love a good journey in a book, and this has that, along with some fighting, killing, and unexpected but wholly welcome meditations on what it means to be human. Essentially, it's a perfect combination of a fairly straightforward Western adventure story, with a more highbrow look at the human condition- it never goes too far in either direction, and the result is a book that both entertains and resonates, in a way that so few books manage to do. And that, my friends, is what you call being an excellent writer.
In conclusion, read this, read this, read this! And if you are Alley, I'm pretty sure that you're obligated BY LAW to read this now. I haven't taken my copy back to the library yet, and I"m not sure I can... I'm very attached and might need to secure my own copy before relinquishing this one. THAT'S HOW GOOD, PEOPLE!