In addition to having a delightful plot, The Sisters Brothers, by Patrick deWitt, being a historical novel, has delightful references to the era in question: the gold rush of the mid-nineteenth century. And being a specific kind of historical novel—a Western—it contains all the traditional elements of that genre.
If you enjoy reading about gunfights and duels, forlorn towns in the wilderness, panning for gold, covered wagons, the gain and loss of huge piles of precious metals, horses, bears, tough guys, and whores—this book is for you.
But this book is also for you if you enjoy a hearty side of quirk with your traditional fare. deWitt displays real brilliance in creating interesting and unique characters whom you’re not sure whether to love or hate.
One of my favorite bits of quirk in the novel is the recurrence of scenes in which different characters get extraordinary joy from brushing their teeth with the different flavors of tooth powder newly available in local general stores. Tooth brushing was, at one time, a novel thing. Perhaps people of the future will roll their eyes at the thought of people in the past getting so much joy from their primitive phone apps; who knows?
By the way, it looks like the promised motion picture was released in theaters last October and on disc and streaming last month. Have you seen it? What did you think? Looks like it got pretty good reviews. Has anyone seen the movie and read the book? What similarities or differences did you notice? (I read the film description and noticed one difference: the brothers’ birth order.)