This fast-paced Western tells the story of the two Sisters brothers, Eli and Charlie, who’ve been hired by the Commodore to go to California and kill a man for allegedly stealing something from the Commodore. What it’s really about is the relationship between the hard and bold Charlie, who accepts their mission out of idolatry of the Commodore, and the softer-hearted, obese Eli, who questions their mission and the value of doing work for the Commodore at all.
None of which accurately describes what I adored about this novel, which was a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining trip. For me, it’s all about Eli’s obsessions, which include his brother, his broken-backed horse Tub, the newly-discovered art of brushing his teeth, and the women who are kind to him along the way. I found it impossible to not like and care about Eli, even if he was at times just as much a cold-hearted killer as his brother.
The final act of the novel is something perhaps I’ll like more as time goes by, but on first read it felt just a bit flat for me, and I thought the ending, while good, was slower than the rest of the book, which had until that point moved at a near-perfect pace. Still, deWitt’s genius is all in the details, from the horses to the beavers to the River of Light. There’s always something on the page worth reading, and surprises everywhere.
Funny, sad, thoughtful, and so incredibly easy to read — I really recommend this one.
I just hope when the inevitable film version comes out they cast Tucker & Dale instead of Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill.