Books·Canadian

The Sisters Brothers

Patrick deWitt tells the story of two brothers, bound to each other by blood, scars and love in The Sisters Brothers.

Patrick deWitt

Hermann Kermit Warm is going to die: Eli and Charlie Sisters can be counted on for that. Though Eli has never shared his brother's penchant for whiskey and killing, he's never known anything else. On the road to Warm's gold-mining claim outside San Francisco — and from the back of his long-suffering one-eyed horse — Eli struggles to make sense of his life without abandoning the job he's sworn to do.

Patrick deWitt, acclaimed author of Ablutions, doffs his hat to the classic Western, and then transforms it into a comic tour-de-force with an unforgettable narrative voice that captures all the absurdity, melancholy, and grit of the West — and of these two brothers, bound to each other by blood and scars and love. (From House of Anansi)

has thrown the Western up in the air and brought it down new and strange and ferociously alive.- 2011 Scotiabank  Giller Prize jury

The Sisters Brothers won the 2011 Governor General's Literary Award for fiction and the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. It was also a finalist for the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize and the 2011 Man Booker Prize.

The Sisters Brothers was adapted into a film starring John C. Reilly in 2018.

How Patrick deWitt writes

"I think the most important thing for me the way the words sit and sound on the page. I never went in for plotting and planning the narrative beforehand. It's more fun to see where the story wants to go in a given day.

I never went in for plotting and planning the narrative beforehand. It's more fun to see where the story wants to go in a given day.- Patrick deWitt

"This, of course, can be frustrating and I've spent far too many days chasing the wrong story and going down the wrong path. There's certainly been times where I wished I were more the type of writer who knows where he's going. But I'd prefer not knowing as it's a more pleasant and surprising for me."

Read more in his interview with CBC Books.

From the book

I was sitting outside the Commodore's mansion, waiting for my brother Charlie to come out with news of the job. It was threatening to snow and I was cold and for want of something to do I studied Charlie's new horse, Nimble. My new horse was called Tub. We did not believe in naming horses but they were given to us as partial payment for the last job with the names intact, so that was that. Our unnamed previous horses had been immolated, so it was not as though we did not need these new ones but I felt we should have been given money to purchase horses of our own choosing, horses without histories and habits and names they expected to be addressed by. I was very fond of my previous horse and lately had been experiencing visions while I slept of his death, his kicking, burning popping eyeballs. He could cover sixty miles in a day like a gust of wind and I never laid a hand on him except to stroke him or clean him, and I tried not to think of him burning up in that barn but if the vision arrived uninvited how was I to guard against it? Tub was a healthy enough animal but would have been better suited to some other, less ambitious owner. He was portly and low-backed and could not travel more than fifty miles in a day. I was often forced to whip him, which some men do not mind doing and which in fact some enjoy doing, but which I did not like to do; and afterward he, Tub, believed me cruel and thought to himself, Sad life, sad life.


From The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt ©2011. Published by House of Anansi.

Interviews with Patrick deWitt

Patrick deWitt talks about his concern that a western like The Sisters Brothers would never find an audience and the surprise of receiving so many accolades. 6:30
The author of The Sisters Brothers talks about his literary inspirations. 4:39

More about The Sisters Brothers

Acceptance speech of winner of Governor General's Literary Award for fiction. 2:10
TNC listener Heather Touet suggests a Canadian novel she thinks you'll love, if you liked Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses. 0:58

Watch The Sisters Brothers movie trailer

Other books by Patrick deWitt

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