In The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt (Anansi), two outlaw brothers make their way from Oregon to California in search of a man they have been hired to kill. The target turns out to be a partner in an easy, sure-fire way to extract gold from creeks, and on the way they deal with a poisonous spider bite, a debilitating toothache, a witch’s curse, a grizzly bear, several hangovers and the murder of some people who just get in their way.
The story is told by Eli, the sensitive brother, who is having second thoughts about their line of work (he’d really like to be a store clerk) but who has trouble communicating this to his older brother, Charlie, a heavy drinker who is both smart and lucky. The understated humour builds slowly as the brothers wreak havoc on themselves and on the people they come across.
Readers may find themselves grinning as the brothers get caught up in gold fever, lose almost everything and, in the end, return to the only reliable thing in their lives—their mother. Zane Grey must be turning over in his grave.