cowboy with a gun and horse at a saloon in the Wild WestThe Sisters Brothers is about two notorious killers known as the Sisters brothers. When the story begins, the two have already taken numerous previous jobs as hired assassins, and they have just taken on a new job. There’s plenty of bloodshed, big talk, and general mayhem throughout Patrick deWitt’s engrossing novel.

That’s why it’s so hysterical to learn that the protagonist, one of the fiercely aggressive Sisters brothers, is also a romantic. Upon meeting a woman he likes, he notes the following:

“I resolved to lose twenty-five pounds of fat and to write her a letter of love and praises, that I might improve her time on the earth with the devotion of another human being.”

He plans to improve one person’s life through the romantic idea of devotional love letters, while brutally and senselessly cutting short the lives of others?

This tension between being a hired killer and having a tender heart is one of the key themes of this novel. It’s a theme that’s extremely comical and results in a large number of ridiculous scenes. But it’s also a theme that tears at the reader’s heart.

Behind every joke is an important truth.

Hired assassins are human, too.

What tensions between harshness and tenderness do you see in yourself?

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