This review (reflection, WHATEVER) has been next to impossible to write. I've had the book sitting at eye level on my desk for the past month, and I just gaze at it adoringly . . . AND NOTHING ELSE HAPPENS.
OK, here's what we'll do. I'll tell you what other books The Sisters Brothers reminds me of, and you'll not laugh at me.
First, it makes me think of Into the Wild, because there's an end goal, but the resolution of the journey (and of the story, really) isn't as important as the people encountered along the way.
Second, it reminds me of True Grit, because contractions are scarce. And it's a Western. What do you want from me? In-depth literary criticism? No.
And third, it's a tad reminiscent of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, because Charlie Sisters is a George and . . . I'm sorry, Eli, but you're definitely a Lennie. You kiiiiind of squish women with love.
The year is 1851. Eli and Charlie Sisters are hired guns from Oregon City, working for a crime lord called the Commodore. They've just come off a bad job, during which their horses were burned to death in a barn. Now they have new horses (I LOVE YOU, TUB!) and a new job, to kill a California prospector named Hermann Kermit Warm.
The brothers have earned quite a reputation across the country as stone-cold killers, and Charlie does seem to enjoy the work. But Eli is starting to think he might like to find a good woman and settle down. His sentimentality is that of a man hardened by circumstances, but it's all the more sincere for that.
"I had in the last year or so given up whores entirely, thinking it best to go without rather than pantomime human closeness; and though it was unrealistic for a man in my position to be thinking such thoughts, I could not help myself: I saw my bulky person in the windows of the passing storefronts and wondered, When will that man there find himself to be loved?" (p. 56)
"Might I leave her a secret note? But I had no paper or ink and at any rate what would I say to her? Dear Miss, I wish you would wash your face and be nice to me. I have money. Do you want it? I never know what to do with it." (p. 59)And the dynamic between the brothers is what you might expect from two grown men who love each other and also kill for a living. There is much drinking and bickering . . . SO much bickering. But kind of adorable bickering?
"'You're not smiling, are you? We're in a quarrel and you mustn't under any circumstances smile.' I was not smiling, but then began to, slightly. 'No,' said Charlie, 'you mustn't smile when quarreling. It's wrong, and I dare say you know it's wrong. You must stew and hate and revisit all the slights I offered you in childhood.'" (p. 46)Some of their exchanges are hilarious (Charlie is clever and retains his biting sense of humor even in the face of death), and some are sobering.
Discussing a trading post they had just patronized:
"'It struck me as restful industry. I'll wager that old man sleeps very well at night.'This complicated relationship between brothers is couched within a larger story about raw human ambition, the American Dream, the California Gold Rush, and just . . . life. So many passages struck me as the purest and truest thing I had ever read. I basically just reread the whole book looking for excerpts to share with you, and I want to share them ALL. I'm refraining from doing so with the understanding that you will go immediately right now this very second and read the book yourself.
'Do you not sleep well at night?' Charlie asked earnestly.
'I do not,' I said. 'And neither do you.'
'I sleep like a stone,' he protested.
'You whimper and moan.'
'It's the truth, Charlie.'
'Ho,' he said, sniffing. He paused to study my words. He wished to check if they were sincere, I knew, but could not think of a way to ask without sounding overly concerned. The joy went out of him then, and his eyes for a time could not meet mine. I thought, We can all of us be hurt, and no one is exclusively safe from worry and sadness." (p. 50)
|WHY AREN'T YOU READING IT YET?|
And thanks to Brooks at Forever Overhead for hosting the giveaway that led to me winning this book that is full of win!