I was taught in high school that comedy is simply tragedy and time. And in the case of Patrick DeWitt’s The Sisters Brothers, there is plenty of tragedy but the timing is all off. But for some reason, this only makes the story more tragic and even funnier.
The Sisters Brothers is a brilliant but easy read. The relationship between Eli and Charlie Sisters (who are brothers), two seemingly unfeeling contracted killers during California’s Gold Rush, take centre stage in the story. DeWitt doesn’t waste time describing tumble weed and landscapes. Narrated by Eli Sisters, the more sensitive brother who has an even more dangerous streak when angry, the story rolls out slowly with the voice of a simple cowboy.
I’ve read too many novels where the writer takes his or her merry time describing the setting. This isn’t that kind of book. There is plenty of plot and well orchestrated dialogue between the brothers. And while Eli might be a pansy of a killer, he breaks your heart because the poor guy wants nothing more but to be loved. It’s a struggle for me to explain why The Sisters Brothers is comedic. You’ll have to read it to understand. I think a lot of it has to do with Charlie laughing at the wrong times – or as I would like call them FML-moments.
While I was sad to finish this story because it was SO good, DeWitt is either an amazing writer or has a fantastic editor. There is not a second wasted moment or word in the book. Everything serves a brilliant purpose in this sad, sorry tale.