The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt… & A Special Giveaway!

Read 5 pages into The Sisters Brothers and you begin comparing it to Charles Portis’ (or, for that matter, the Cohen brothers’) True Grit. Both are Westerns, obviously. Neither narrator uses contractions or slang and – despite one being a man & the other a girl – they speak in almost identical voices. Which was an intelligent choice on the author’s part when you think about it.  Patrick deWitt has built his story on a foundation of prose, linking to the classic book through phrasing.  Because of Portis’ book we automatically associate this bare bones style with Westerns.  And having deftly established his book as a Western in this way, deWitt is left with more room to zero in on his characters & plot. The Sisters Brothers is a rare  homage. One that never risks becoming derivative.

The brothers of the title are Charlie & Eli Sisters, gunslingers working for a man known only as the Commodore. Their current job is to hunt and kill Hermann Kermit Warm, a California prospector. Along the way they encounter a motley assortment of characters and adventures, all described to us by Eli. Despite his profession he is ridiculously likeable (and likeable-y ridiculous). An honorable man who, like all good Western heroes, makes no excuses for  his brother or himself. But as he tells his story it becomes clear that he no longer has the heart for killing, if indeed he ever did. Charlie chose their profession.  Eli continues out of loyalty to his brother and little else. Certainly not for the money, which he gives away freely to every underdog that crosses their path.  Charlie, though, is a different matter entirely.  And it’s the relationship between these two brothers that is at the heart of this book.

“We had many adventures together, Charlie and I, and we saw things most men do not get to see.”

The Sisters Brothers has enough gunfights, whores, horses, gamblers, hired guns, outlaws, and prospectors to satisfy even Louis L’Amour.  It’s one of the most entertaining books I’ve read in a long time. One encounter in particular, when Eli & Charlie stumble onto a boy who becomes intent on joining them – whose “head invited violence” –  is so funny that I read it twice.  And the dynamic between Eli and his horse Tubb is equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking.  Which is what struck me hardest about this novel. DeWitt carefully balances comedy and tragedy, never allowing the story to weigh too heavy on either side. And isn’t that why we love Westerns? Because they blur  the lines? Good and bad, right and wrong, hero and villain – in a Western who you are is determined by the choices you make, not necessarily the consequences of those choices. Yet, ultimately, those consequences remain.

Patrick deWitt has joined the ranks of my favorite kind of author: those who are exploring genre fiction and taking it to the next level.  The Sisters Brothers is a grand adventure not to be missed.

Publisher:  Ecco HarperCollins, New York (2011)
ISBN:  978 0 06 204126 5


I know I’m not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but that’s what initially drew me to The Sisters Brothers.  Designed by Dan Stiles, the cover art has a wonderful graphic quality that made me want to hang it on the wall.  The Ecco team at HarperCollins must have felt the same way. They’ve ordered a limited edition run of 12″ x 18″ art quality prints, each signed and numbered by the artist.  Seriously, they are FABULOUS!  And when they offered me one for my readers, I couldn’t say no.

So, here are the rules:

  • One winner, open to residents of the U.S.A. only.
  • The contest will run for 2 weeks.
  • Leave a comment below naming your favorite Western. Books, movies and television shows will all be accepted.
  • Make sure you also leave your email or twitter handle (remember to follow me!) so I can get your address if you win.
  • In addition to the poster, I’ll be giving away a used galley of the book to a second winner (Patrick deWitt is also popular with American Bulldog puppies – so there is some slight scratching to the cover).

And that’s it! I’ll announce the winner on Friday, June 10th.  Good luck everyone!

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19 thoughts on “The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt… & A Special Giveaway!

  1. The cover is definitely interesting. The book sounds like a read my husband would love. He is more into the westerns than I am and he watches ALL of them. In fact, with the tv so loud I sometimes think I need to hide from the gunfights. I am a new subscriber to your blog and would love a follow back. I am also hosting a give away for the book Cruelty to Innocents: The 911 Abductions.


  2. I remember you talking about this giveaway in NYC! I want to be entered into this~

    I actually took a film class on Westerns a few years ago, but most of the ones we watched were borderline boring (and with NO good female characters). But I really liked Once Upon a Time in the West, mostly for two reasons: it reminded me of Kill Bill (one of my favorite movies, and which of course drew heavily upon Sergio Leone’s Westerns in the first place) and the female character (Jill) had a least a little bit of depth to her character. It made things more interesting, between all the gunfights and staring into the distance.


    1. Anastasia –

      I loved Kill Bill, thought I think I’m one of the few people who enjoyed Kill Bill 2 more.

      You’re absolutely right about female characters in Westerns lacking depth. The only Western I can think of off the top of my head where the opposite was true was Johnny Guitar with Joan Crawford. At the time, Crawford was so powerful in Hollywood that she forced the studio to re-write a traditional Western script to make her character the lead. It was a pretty awful movie (though it is considered a classic). Incredibly schmaltzy. But you might be interested in checking it out just for the history.


    1. Noah –

      He was amazing in Tombstone. And I loved how Kevin Costner’s Wyatt Earp came out at the same time – but all the raves went to Tombstone. But then, I am not a Costner fan.


  3. I just finished the book last night, and absolutely loved it. So glad to have found this one.

    Westerns are pretty much my top genre, so picking a favorite is difficult. I’d say Unforgiven for films, Lonesome Dove for books, and Deadwood for TV.

    Thanks for the contest. That cover art is spectacular!


    1. I haven’t seen Deadwood yet, but Unforgiven was wonderful and I am a huge fan of Larry McMurty – though I feel his later books don’t hold up to those of the Lonesome Dove era.

      I’m surprised no one has mentioned Louis L’amour yet…


      1. I’ve only read Lonesome Dove (which I love) and Telegraph Days (which I wasn’t a fan of). I just started Streets of Laredo, so I’m hoping that one’s good too. I’ve read a little L’amour, and I’ve liked what I’ve read.


  4. I love THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY and THERE WILL BE BLOOD (not necessarily a western but similar). I have been hearing a lot about THE SISTERS BROTHERS and it is on my TBR list. Cheers, Erica


    1. I love all Clint Eastwood films! Good choice. 🙂

      I’ve never seen There Will Be Blood, and I’ve been wanting to for a long time. I definitely think it would qualify as a Western, though probably not to hardcore traditionalists.

      Thanks for stopping by.


  5. I love the Unforgiven! I watched that one with my dad several times. I prefer the 1992 version.

    I think I could get into this book – but I absolutely love the poster! That’s what I’m more interested in – I can buy the book later 😉


    1. I’ve been waiting for someone to mention the Unforgiven. But wait! How did I not know that there was a version earlier than the 1992 one? With Audrey Hepburn no less. Actually, the story line sounds more like The Searchers with John Wayne than it does Unforgiven with Clint Eastwood. Still, Audrey Hepburn!

      Thank you for the comment!


  6. I would have to say Stagecoach, and the only version that mattered, the one with the king of Westerns, John Wayne! Awesome and awesomer!
    Thanks for a great giveaway:)
    jwitt33 at live dot com


    1. Oh thank god you said that! I was worriedly that no one would mention John Wayne!!! My favorite are his cavalry films.


  7. Wow, this started a big discussion at our house, because we all love westerns. Narrowing down to one choice impossible, Rio Bravo w John Wayne and Dean Martin is one movie we can watch every time it’s on. Anything with John Wayne, really. I love Angel and the Badman w Wayne and Gail Russell, too. Shane would be my book choice (also a great movie.) On tv I like The Big Valley with Barbara Stanwyck.



    1. JoLynn –

      You’ve covered all media, with the exception of radio! My father loves Shane, but I never got into it myself. Rio Bravo, though, that I loved!
      I think you’re the only person to mention television. I thought for sure Gun Smoke, Little House on the Prairie or Bonanza would have a few fans.


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