"He was reaping the benefits, both monetary and spiritual, of his hard labors and intelligence, and it made me think of my own path, which by comparison was so much more the thoughtless and heartless one."
I didn't jump on the bandwagon with this one when it was first published for a number of reasons. The fact that it was a western was the least alluring component of all. And it's pretty big here. It's got men and guns and horses and dust and whores and liquor. And the whole not showering situation and drinking coffee brewed on a fire and all the other jazz you've seen on a TV during your life on the planet Earth. So, I was a bit hesitant. While I won't be shouting praises from the roof tops, I will say that it was a worthy read. I'd suggest it if you happen to be looking for something a little different in your life (unless you are a western fanatic...then I haven't a clue). I am also ignorant to the "beauty" of western genre in general, so I certainly wasn't picky.
Eli and Charlie Sisters are infamous killers traveling down the Pacific coast on orders from their boss, the Commodore. On a hunt for Hermann Warm, the creator of a deadly tonic that allows prospectors to obtain gold in the river beds more easily, the two encounter a number of interesting characters along the way. Traveling from one dusty town to the next, Eli expresses his discontent with his line of work, the dichotomy of his personality and the personal history of him and his brother. Gunslinging, brandy consuming, fire stoking entertainment is packed into this relatively short title. Sort of, anyway.
I think what impressed me most was my experience and reaction to our narrator, Eli Sisters. Despite his temper and capacity to snap a man's neck (or quick shot to the head) in a moment's notice, I could sympathize with his character. Eli's been created to be introspective, a contrast to his bloodthirsty brother. Most of the novel is comprised of Eli's brooding, or I guess I should say the point of view is less focused on the action itself, and more on Eli's reaction to the violence and reflection on his capacity to be violent. He explains his childhood with Charlie, Eli being the younger of the two, and offers an explanation as to how they developed these personality traits. While Eli may be tough, we also see a sensitive side that longs for his brother's affection and approval, and to do work that is honest.
It's interesting, too, how deWitt manages to capture the lawless landscape where men loathe to be, but are, oddly enough, drawn to foolishly. The side effects of the wonder tonic that Warm has created, which promises to make a man rich, pollute the clean water supply and burn the flesh of those who stand in its way. I found this especially interesting as it displays this snapshot of time when people didn't adhere to safety and sanitation laws. A time when drugs were liberally given and taken with no thought to the consequences. Additionally, this western way of life is another definition of the later-in-coming American dream where riches, success and freedom are coveted.
All and all, it wasn't my favorite read of the year. I'll go so far as to say that there were times when I didn't think I was going to finish. However, after moving past the first half of the book, I was interested enough to discover the outcome of their adventure. Plus, there were some laugh out loud moments that I didn't really expect to encounter. I probably won't be picking up a western anytime in the near future, but I'm glad I gave this one a chance.