Review: Cut Hand by Mark Wildyr

Billy Strobaw’s world turns on its axis when he has a surprising and physical reaction to a young Indian he and two of his travelling companions have taken captive. The handsome warrior, Cut Hand, eventually not only earns his freedom but also steals Billy’s heart and prevails upon the American to come live among his people. Plunged into a strange culture where lust for another man is not regarded as disgraceful, Billy agrees to become Cut’s ”winkte” wife and comes to understand that the Native Americans have just as much to offer him as he has to share with them.

Review by Gerry Burnie

Mark Wildyr’s cross-culture novel “Cut Hand” [StarBooks Press, 2010] was a delightful find for me. To explain, I usually shy away from “Wild West” stories because they tend to be little more than loosely strung together sexual romps, to which the plot only serves to move the characters from one tryst to another. On the contrary “Cut Hand,” while sexy, is a plot-driven, insightful look at “Two Spirit” customs within North American Native cultures. Moreover, since it places a white boy in the role of the wink-te (pronounced “wan-te” in this story) it is unique approach to it.

Billy Strobaw is the product of Tory parents (called “Loyalists” in Canada) who are unsettled as a result of the American War of Independence. He and his family therefore become outcasts in their own land, and after their untimely deaths young Billy decides to seek his fortune in the Far West. Enroute, his party saves a handsome young Indian named Cut Hand from certain death by a rival band. Thereafter Billy is surprised by his unexpected physical reaction to the Indian brave. Surprisingly Cut Hand returns his attention to not only steal Billy’s heart but also convinces him to live among his people.

Thrust without preparation into a strange culture, Billy agrees to become Cut Hand’s winkte wife; an act that brings problems but not from the direction he expected. As the two men work to overcome the differences in their cultural backgrounds, Billy comes to appreciate the Native Americans for their oneness with the land and their staunch loyalty to one another.

To simply say that this story is “plot-driven” does not do it the justice it deserved. This is a superbly researched glimpse of “a time never again to be seen on the Great Plains,” and done with such credibility that it is a veritable history lesson in itself. Also woven into this is a sometimes poignant story of love between men: manly men; husbands and wink-te wives; warriors; and yet so human that anyone could identify with them.

While commenting on the superlatives inherent in this work, one shouldn’t overlook the cast of true-to-life characters. Wildyr has given each of these a distinctive character, and then goes on to develop and expand it as the story progresses. Moreover, he has resisted the pitfalls of stereotyping the Natives, especially, and has not attempted to ‘sanitize’ them, either.

Altogether, this is quintessential historical fiction encompassing a fascinating topic and period in history.

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8 Responses

  1. I’m curious, what is Cut Hand’s specific tribal affiliation? I don’t see a specific people named just the generic Native American.

  2. Apparently Cut Hand was a memeber of the Yanube tribe, “cousins” of the Sioux.

  3. I’m delighted to see such a positive review for this book, which I read and adored a couple of months ago. Thank you, Gerry!

    Reading _Cut Hand_ gave me the same feeling as watching _Casablanca_. I knew what the historical outcomes would be, and the thrill came from watching well-drawn characters play out a masteful story.

    Among the elements I loved were the way information about the outside world — and particularly the Indian Wars — reached the characters intermittently and incompletely. This small acknowledgement of the pre-information age is just one example of Mark Wildyr’s deftness in the historical genre.

    I also appreciated that he neither glorified the Yanube nor demonized any of the various other Native factions. Nor did he make the whites in the story monolithic in their motivations or behavior. Every character was grounded in his or her background but independent in his or her actions.

    Sorry to blather on. Gerry’s review reminded me how much I enjoyed _Cut Hand_. It’s not often we’re treated to such a good old-fashioned adventure-romance.

    Lee B.

  4. I, too, would like to thank Gerry and others for their favorable reviews. I am glad that some people are apparently getting as much enjoyment out of reading the book as I had in writing it. I invite you all to visit me on my website.

    Again, thanks to the reviewers and thanks to the readers. What would we do without them?

    PS: Submitted my second book…still cross cultural, but not historical to STARbooks. Hope they like it.

    Mark Wildyr

  5. Here’s an update. STARbooks notified me this weekend my second novel, “Willam” will be published in 2011. Hope you all get a good read from it.

    Erastes, keep on sending your submissions. Remember, even a rejection is a success becaused it means you did something positive…you put your work out there. Best of luck.


    • that’s great Mark – look forward to reading it. Is it historical? As to me, I have been very lucky – other than one tragic novel, I’ve never been rejected.

      • No, it’s not a historical novel this time. It traces the story of a young Indian man in contemporatory times learning who he is and in the process, managing to turn his hobby of “whittling” into a career as a sculptor. The working title is “Willam (a corruption of William), but the publisher wants another title. It’s scheduled for Fall 2011.

        Thanks for asking.

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