23 September 2011

Imprint Friday: The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Ecco books. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.

Now here's a book that needs little introduction. Patrick deWitt's The Sisters Brothers made the Man Booker short list this year and is generating quite a bit of buzz all on its own.

Here's what it's all about:

Hermann Kermit Warm is going to die. The enigmatic and powerful man known only as the Commodore has ordered it, and his henchmen, Eli and Charlie Sisters, will make sure of it. Though Eli doesn't share his brother's appetite for whiskey and killing, he's never known anything else. But their prey isn't an easy mark, and on the road from Oregon City to Warm's gold-mining claim outside Sacramento, Eli begins to question what he does for a living—and whom he does it for.

With The Sisters Brothers, Patrick deWitt pays homage to the classic Western, transforming it into an unforgettable comic tour de force. Filled with a remarkable cast of characters—losers, cheaters, and ne'er-do-wells from all stripes of life—and told by a complex and compelling narrator, it is a violent, lustful odyssey through the underworld of the 1850s frontier that beautifully captures the humor, melancholy, and grit of the Old West and two brothers bound by blood, violence, and love.
Whoa! A Western? Well, yes, it is, but it's a different kind of Western and one that shouldn't be read too closely as historical fiction. Instead this a story of brothers and their strange journey on their way to do a violent job. Their adventure is told by Eli, the younger of the two, who is self-conscious of his weight and considered a bit slow but who, nonetheless is thoughtful and observant:
This perhaps was what lay at the very root of the hysteria surrounding what came to be known as the Gold Rush: Men desiring a feeling of fortune; the unlucky masses hoping to skin or borrow the luck of others, or the luck of a destination. A seductive notion, and one I though to be wary of. To me, lucky was something you either earned or invented through strength of mind. You had to come by it honestly; you could not trick or bluff your way into it.
The brothers couldn't be more different and yet they are bound by blood, love, and experience. As they make their way south to California, getting out of one scrape after another, you root for them—especially Eli—to somehow survive their mission.

Thanks to The Sisters Brothers's Man Booker nomination, there have been many reviews and analyses of the novel. Here are three thoughts (click on the links for the full reviews):
  • Jake Wallis Simons writing for The Independent: "The travails of the humane yet morally ambiguous protagonist in a hostile, lawless and unpredictable universe have echoes of Cormac McCarthy's speculative classic The Road. That book imagines a journey through a world in which civilisation has died; [The Sisters Brothers] explores a world in which civilisation, as we know it, has not yet emerged. But both have much to say about the business of being human."
  • Michael Christie, writing for the National Post: "Most of all, it is in the small details of their day-to-day lives where the conventions of the Western are deliciously trampled. Sure, there are saloons, prostitutes, brawls and sneak attacks on the bad guy’s camp, but the Sisters brothers mostly battle the mundane. . . . The overall effect is fresh, hilariously anti-heroic, often genuinely chilling, and relentlessly compelling. Yes, this is a mighty fine read, and deWitt a mighty fine writer."
  • Ron Charles writing for the Washington Post: "After capturing the fireside camps and saloons in perfectly drawn vignettes, deWitt strips these two lethal brothers of more than they ever thought a man could lose. And then, damned if he doesn’t surprise us again with a twilight scene that’s just miraculously lovely."
The Sisters Brothers was an Indie Next pick for May 2011. For more on Patrick deWitt, visit his website.

Beth Fish Reads is proud to showcase Ecco books as a featured imprint on this blog. For more information about Ecco, please read the introductory note from Vice President / Associate Publisher Rachel Bressler, posted here on July 15, 2011. Find your next great read by clicking on Ecco in the scroll-down topics/labels list in my sidebar and by visiting Ecco books on Facebook and following them on Twitter.

The Sisters Brothers at Powell's
The Sisters Brothers at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by HarperCollins / Ecco, May 2011
ISBN-13: 9780062041265


bookspersonally 9/23/11, 6:32 AM  

Hi! What a nice round up of thoughts on The Sisters Brothers- recently finished it (getting ready to post when I saw your tweet!)- really enjoyed it - beautiful prose, interesting characters & journey. Such a nice idea to feature Ecco books, look forward to checking out more of Imprint Fridays.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea 9/23/11, 6:49 AM  

I love the cool cover on this one, and although I've never read a Western or (semi western) LOL. I am interested in reading this one and Doc, by Russell.

Beth F 9/23/11, 7:14 AM  

Diane: I too am interested in Doc. I really need to get a copy of it.

Veens 9/23/11, 8:06 AM  

This does sound like it deserves to be there :)

Pam (@iwriteinbooks) 9/23/11, 8:43 AM  

I love love love the idea of this and obviously the cover is super fun. Glad it's desrving of it's hype!

Zibilee 9/23/11, 9:07 AM  

I am so excited about this book, and just recently bought it. I am not a huge fan of Westerns, but there is something about this book that sounds so different and unique. I have been reading a lot about it on the blogs as well. I sort of feel that it might be in the same vein as Missy by Chris Hannan. Great feature today!

Barbara 9/23/11, 10:10 AM  

Fascinating cover. The story intrigues me. I'm hooked.

Nise' 9/23/11, 10:12 AM  

I have seen this one at the library and now I will probably pick it up.

bermudaonion 9/23/11, 11:14 AM  

I didn't realize this is a western. I'm not sure I've ever read a western. I am really drawn to that cover.

Kailana 9/23/11, 11:15 AM  

I am curious about this book. I have it requested from the library because it is also nominated for Canada's Giller awards, but I am not sure when it will make its way to me...

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks 9/23/11, 1:15 PM  

"Whoa. A Western." You are too punny, Ms. Beth Fish Reads!

I hadn't heard much about this until the Man Booker short list; thanks for giving me a better idea of what to expect if I pick it up.

Sandy Nawrot 9/23/11, 1:18 PM  

I had the opportunity to buy this one at the last Borders fire sale and did not. Humph!

Julie P. 9/23/11, 3:52 PM  

Sounds like a unique premise and like nothing I've ever read.

Dorte H 9/23/11, 5:22 PM  

Sounds like a very unusual Western - but my, how that title addles my brain every time I see it :D

Anonymous,  9/23/11, 6:23 PM  

I'll confess to having no interest in the book. But I adore the cover!

Sheila (Bookjourney) 9/23/11, 7:37 PM  

The cover has always interested me but yeah.... I do not know if I would be able to get into it.

Vasilly 9/23/11, 7:55 PM  

I love the cover of The Sisters Brothers. I don't know if I'll ever get around to reading it though. I love that you're featuring another great publisher.

Michelle 9/24/11, 8:49 AM  

I'm with @vasilly the cover is certainly one that grabs the attention. Sounds like the innards are equally as compelling!

Andi 9/26/11, 1:01 PM  

This one is on my TBR and I'm excited to get to it!

Jenners 9/26/11, 9:15 PM  

Sounds like a Western that doesn't follow all the cliches. And I think that cover art is very clever!

Sandra 10/7/11, 1:07 PM  

I don't think I've ever read a Western but I have this one coming from the library and am looking forward to it since it's been nominated for a Booker. I enjoy the fact that you give other links for other opinions-saves me looking around for them, thanks.

Buried In Print 11/6/11, 8:27 PM  

This is such a gripping story: I love seeing how often people say that they don't normally like westerns but they loved this book nonetheless. I found it tremendously entertaining, but I also think Patrick deWitt makes something very hard look easy: maintaining a voice like Eli's throughout the novel, and drawing in so many readers who wouldn't normally give him the proverbial time of day...I think that's pretty remarkable.

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