The backstory: The Sisters Brothers was longlisted for the 2011 Booker Prize.
The basics: Eli and Charlie are brothers working as hit men in 1851 Oregon City. Eli, a nice, honest, killer if you will, hopes for life after killing, but his brother Charlie wants to keep living the life of a gunslinger. The two set out on a mission to kill a man in San Francisco.
My thoughts: When I saw True Grit last year (my review), I was surprised how much I loved it. When the Booker longlist was announced, I was intrigued by The Sisters Brothers and was thrilled when it came into the library so quickly. I was surprised how much I enjoyed The Sisters Brothers too. I guess it really is true: I like westerns. Eli Sisters is a wonderful narrator and character. His cadence and perspective struck me as endearing and unexpected. I also could not help picturing it as a film as I read it. I think there's a great future for comedic westerns on the screen.
Booker thoughts: While I found The Sisters Brothers to be engaging and entertaining, I would fall short of calling it highly literary. I only marked one passage as truly special. As I read, I found myself enthralled with the characters and action, but I didn't find myself contemplating its depth. It's a book I would recommend to most people because it is so entertaining. To me, it was unique, but as it was the first western I've read, I'll leave the discussions of genre to its devotees. What I find most interesting in the "yes, it's entertaining, but is it Booker-worthy?" discussions is the notion of uniqueness. I can't compare The Sisters Brothers to anything else I've ever read. At what point does originality trump its literary prowess? The Pulitzer has been pushing the conventions of genre and voice for years with its winners, and perhaps this year's Booker judges are jumping on the originality bandwagon.
Favorite passage: "He said this casually, but it was the type of statement that eclipsed the conversation, killed it."
The verdict: The Sisters Brothers combines historical fiction, humor and a western into a highly entertaining and enjoyable novel. It's a novel sure to appeal to readers of all ages who enjoy a variety of genres. Its seriousness is buoyed by its comedy, and despite some graphic violence, it's surprisingly touching.
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Length: 325 pages
Publication date: April 26, 2011
Source: my local public library
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