Part western, part hard-boiled crime story, part Don Quixote-esque quest tale, The Sisters Brothers is a rollicking western that also makes a great audio book. It is a tale of two brothers, hardened gunmen working frontier towns. The older of the brothers is a cunning killer, the very picture of the Wild West villain. The younger brother, our narrator, is a chubby, introverted, and introspective reluctant follower. Both work for a mysterious crimelord known only as “The Commodore”, who sends them to the ’49er California gold fields on a mission of revenge.
The Sister Brothers flows along like some of my favorite novels, with a picaresque open moving episodically from one absurd situation to another, as the brothers slowly make their way to the California gold fields. Once there, characters and motivations established, the tone of the novel changes, and we see the brothers’ fate unfold before us. The book is by turns funny and tragic, as a good tale should be. Set a decade before the Civil War, it is set in a refreshingly different space and time, close enough to the traditional western to be easily understood, but with just enough difference to stand out from the pack.
I started this blog to find the perfect western. The Sisters Brothers isn’t quite it, but it is good enough to make me believe that the perfect western is still out there, waiting to be found.