This is the very epitome of a picaresque novel. Eli and Charlie Sisters are hired guns working for the Commodore and are sent on a mission to kill Herman Kermit Warm, a prospector out of San Francisco, for reasons that sound dubious to say the least. The story picks up as the Sisters Brothers depart the Oregon Territory for California to hunt down Warm and its smallish chapters are episodically devoted to happenings along the way. Ultimately, the narrating brother, Eli is faced with a series of crises that force him to reevaluate his life and the growth of sensitivity and sentiment in the hardened killer is one of the finest aspects of the novel. As Eli reevaluates his life and what he wants from it, he finds his relationship with his brother strained and recast. What ensues is a pretty remarkable transformation that is at times ridiculously funny and heartwarming. The Sisters Brothers
is filled with the everyday adventures of Eli and Charlie as they deal with hangovers, who's in charge, horses and prostitutes.
In many ways, the Sisters reminded me a lot of Vincent and Jules from Pulp Fiction - bickering about the mundane and at their funniest while performing the most horrifying of work. The dialogue and narration throughout are top notch, verging on the poetic, with several standout lines that hook deep in your brain and roll around and stick with you even after you've moved on a good ten pages. The story does seem episodic and at times rather disjointed as Eli and Charlie become entangled in other misadventures that seem to bury the main plot line at times and make you forget what they're supposed to be about. There's also a crapload of imagery and symbolism throughout that I was either too slow to deconstruct and make proper sense of or never really amounted to anything in the end. Example: the imagery of doorways and thresholds features prominently toward the beginning and end of the novel, particularly in relation to luck and fate, but I haven't really come up with any solidly definitive explanations that I'm satisfied with. If you have any thoughts on the matter, I'd be glad to hear them because I feel like there's some greater genius lurking in these pages that I'm just too slow to put together and see. And that is the heart of the matter - The Sisters Brothers
has the potential to be a five-star read and I think is eminently reread-able. It's fun and Eli's lovesick puppy dog transformation is so jarring with his profession and in juxtaposition to Charlie that a pleasant dichotomy persists through the reading that makes for round and interesting characterization. You pity Eli and root for him to come through and transform throughout and become quite attached. Throw in self-styled bandit kings, deranged prospectors, mad scientists and a lovable horse with a personality as deep as its human owner and you have yourself a party.