Feb 27, 12
Read in February, 2012
I truly have mixed feelings about this book. A lot of writers I admire were raving about it, and I saw it appear on tons of lists this year. This last element, especially, doesn't mean a thing, but I wanted to give it a chance anyway.
I agree with the reviewers who said that the different elements of the plot never came together as a reader might have hoped they would. This book, while set up to be very traditional, actually seems quite experimental in its style to me. Through the whole thing, I kept trying to figure out exactly what ever the thing was that was happening really meant--what did this symbolize? This became even more important to me once I figured out that there really was only a very loose plot and that all of the random encounters weren't really going to add up to anything. I'm not sure if this was intentional in some bigger way or if it's a fault in the writing. I'm still not sure and hope to find some time in the coming days to seek out some interviews with Patrick deWitt to see if I can better understand who he is as a writer. This story, to me, felt like The Odyessy in many ways and I kept trying to fit it in to that framework, but wasn't really successful.
What I did like: Eli and Charlie. I liked that both these characters were both good and bad. They did nasty things, but they still were likable. This is more expected of softhearted Eli, but I actually found Charlie too to be likable through his love of his brother and his sense of humor. I like that these characters were never allowed to be wholly anything and to me this is realistic. To paint a character solely as bad or evil is to lose something important (just like to read a character as evil and evil alone is to miss something important--think Humbert Humbert). These guys get at something human, the possible-ness in people--and that is effective.
I do get the McCarthy comparisons, but I am not going to jump on the True Grit bandwagon. To me, the only thing these two books have in common is that they were both, sort of, westerns. And, I suppose, Rooster was a good/bad guy, but other than that, I think the stories are completely different in style, tone, substance.
This is a story that I like, but I'm not sure why. From reading many of the reviews here--all sort of vague and summary of the story--I get the feeling that many readers felt the same way. They liked The Sisters Brothers, but couldn't really put their finger on why. This might be the same way we'd feel if we met the actual Sisters Brothers, as long as they weren't looking for us.