Dance to a Wylder Beat (The Wylder West)


Olive Muegge responds to a Wanted Ad for a bride: “a quiet wife for a quiet life.” She brings her optimism and energy to mid-1800’s Wylder, Wyoming Territory. Olive is not the quiet type, but that’s the least of the secrets she is keeping from her new intended, Nartan Sagebrush. Before Nartan collects Olive from the stagecoach stop, she’s already stirred up some excitement with the town bully. Oops, there goes the first of her secrets! Not so quiet, not so wifey, what else is Olive hiding? Nartan, a young Arapaho mystic, has made his home in the outskirts of Wylder, where he has been tasked to preserve the ancient traditions of his people while trying to fit in with the settlers. Olive, an indigenous orphan with a unique ursine side to her personality, has migrated from tribe to tribe looking for a forever home. Together with Nartan’s selectively mute younger brother, Ikshu, they cobble together a family that straddles two worlds.

“Dance to a Wylder Beat” is both fun and thoughtful. Marilyn Barr treats the reader to a fabulous trip back in time, capturing the simplicity, trials, and adventure of the early American mid-west. The story is so realistically written, the reader can see and smell the experience of living in the wilderness. It is delicate work to integrate in Wylder, fighting to be seen as “civilized” not “savage”, while their own sacred traditions are being banned. Nartan, Olive and Ikshu manage with grit and tenacity. Their story is told with wit and humour. This is a beautiful literary tribute to the original peoples who called North America their home. Memorable and praiseworthy!

Joan Lai