The Sisters Brothers

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The Sisters Brothers
Cover image of original 2011 edition
AuthorPatrick deWitt
Cover artistDan Stiles
CountryUnited States
GenreFiction, Western
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardcover and paperback)
Pages325 pg (hardback)
Preceded byAblutions 

The Sisters Brothers (2011) is a historical novel by Canadian-born author Patrick deWitt.

The darkly comic, Western-inspired story takes place in Oregon and California in 1851. The narrator, Eli Sisters, and his brother Charlie Sisters are assassins that are sent to kill Hermann Kermit Warm, an ingenious and likable man, who is accused of stealing from the Sisters' fearsome boss, the Commodore. The series of adventures depicted resemble the narrative form of a picaresque novel, and the chapters are, according to one review, "slightly sketched-in, dangerously close to a film treatment."[1]

The film rights for the novel were sold to actor John C. Reilly's production company and adapted into a 2018 film of the same name, with Reilly playing Eli.[2]

Plot summary[edit]

The Sisters brothers are hired by the Commodore to travel from Oregon City to San Francisco to murder prospector Hermann Warm, who is described to them as a "thief". However, when they ultimately encounter Warm, who has developed a chemical formula that reveals the location of gold hidden in riverbeds, they decide to join his prospecting operation rather than murder him. Unfortunately, the formula is extremely acidic; Warm and his partner Morris die from exposure while retrieving the gold, and Charlie Sisters's shooting hand is eventually amputated. Intent on eliminating the endless killers hired by the Commodore the brothers return to kill him instead. Eli finds him soliloquizing in a bathtub and drowns him. The brothers are now free to give up their life of crime and decide to return to their mother's house in Oregon City.


The Sisters Brothers was inspired by a Time–Life book on the California Gold Rush, which deWitt found at a yard sale.[3]


In the year of its release, the book was declared a winner at the 75th Governor General's Literary Awards,[4] held by the Canada Council for the Arts, as well as the winner of the $25,000 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize awarded by the Writers' Trust of Canada.[5] The book also won the 2012 Stephen Leacock Medal from The Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for humour writing, and was announced the winner of the award for Best Fiction at the Canadian Booksellers Association Libris Awards. It also won the 2012 Canadian Authors Association Award for Fiction .[6] Additionally, it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize[7] and the 2012 Walter Scott Prize.[8] The Sisters Brothers was number one on's Best Books of 2011: Top 100 Editors' Picks list[9] and, according to, was the top selling fiction book in Canada for the week ending December 11, 2011.[10]


  1. ^ "Book Review: The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt | Afterword | Arts | National Post". Archived from the original on 2012-07-08. Retrieved 2012-04-16.
  2. ^[permanent dead link] and
  3. ^ Patrick deWitt: The good, the bad and the neurotic at the National Post; by Mark Medley; published May 26, 2011; retrieved August 12, 2012
  4. ^ Patrick "DeWitt wins Governor General Literary Award for Sisters Brothers" Archived 2011-11-22 at Archive-It. National Post, November 16, 2011.
  5. ^ "Patrick deWitt’s 'The Sisters Brothers' wins Writers’ Trust Prize". The Globe and Mail, November 1, 2011.
  6. ^ Patrick "DeWitt wins CAA Award for Sisters Brothers" Archived 2013-12-08 at the Wayback Machine. CAA Award, 2012.
  7. ^ "DeWitt and Edugyan add Giller nods to Booker nominations" Archived 2011-10-05 at the Wayback Machine. The Globe and Mail, October 4, 2011.
  8. ^ "Walter Scott historical fiction shortlist announced". BBC News. 4 April 2012. Retrieved 12 Apr 2012.
  9. ^ On November 30, 2011 9:37 AM   (2011-11-30). "CBC Books - Patrick deWitt tops Best Books of 2011 list". Retrieved 2012-04-16.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-01-11. Retrieved 2011-12-29.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)