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Midlife Crisis in the Old West   Leave a comment

Just to be clear, The Sisters Brothers isn’t missing an apostrophe. The first time I saw
the title by Patrick DeWitt I was certain there was an error. I thought the book was about
the male relatives of sisters. That’s half right: brothers Eli and Charlie Sisters, but no
female siblings.

Set in the Old West, Eli narrates as he and Charlie, both professional gunslingers, embark
on their latest assignment: to find and kill an enigmatic miner. DeWitt’s depictions of time
and place are so strong you can practically smell smoke after the gunfights. Charlie is the
elder and angrier of the two brothers. Eli paints himself as a sensitive man, going so far as
to keep a horse he describes as “portly and low-backed and could not travel more than fifty
miles in a day…” even after he acquires a better, faster one. His reasoning: he felt sorry for
the old one. Strange stuff from a reputed bad guy.

Although his age isn’t mentioned, Eli is going through, if not a midlife crisis, at least a mid-
career one. He’s questioning his line of work. DeWitt injects humor into this western tale
about two men bound by blood and business, but separated by sensitivity and yearning.
Eli realizes he has missed out on many things including, a wife and family, because he has
knowingly ridden alongside Charlie. At one point, this realization even causes Eli to go on
a diet. Yup, mighty strange stuff from a reputed bad guy.

The Sisters Brothers

Four Bookmarks
HarperCollins Books, 2011
325 pages

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