Enemies turned comrades, in less than a decade? Cody and Sitting Bull only worked together for a few months in 1885, but it's a fascinating chapter in the lightning-fast transition from Wild West reality to traveling circus. In her compelling Blood Brothers, Deanne Stillman, an expert on the American West, examines their lives to explore the era’s complexities … Stillman also shows that a third person was crucial to the relationship between the two men: Annie Oakley. Both were a bit in love with that remarkable woman, and her story is as riveting as theirs.
...a condensed history of the Wild West show, homing in on the unlikely bond between Buffalo Bill and Sitting Bull … Blood Brothers offers a brisk and compassionate retelling of a familiar story, but falters at times under the weight of its author’s dogged optimism about the redemptive power of this ‘strange friendship.’
Stillman’s writing can be beautiful and evocative, but there are some head-scratchers, too...She is also prone to dizzyingly long sentences, some of which clock in at 100 words. Finally, with most of the conversations between the protagonists lost to time, along with their thoughts, Stillman too often compensates with speculation, couching her points with ‘perhaps,’ ‘maybe,’ ‘may have said,’ ‘may have replied,’ and the like … While the book’s subtitle promises ‘the story of the strange friendship,’ we end up understanding less about the friendship — its meaning to the two men — than about its strangeness, tinged with tragedy.
Relating large events in the guise of paired persons, friends or enemies, is an old storytelling strategy, not much used these days. Stillman neatly revives it in this portrait of the uncomplicated, mutually admiring friendship of the Lakota leader Sitting Bull and William Cody, aka Buffalo Bill. Adding a third to them in the form of the sharpshooter and all-around interesting person Annie Oakley, the author looks at the clash of cultures and how each character resolved or sometimes ignored differences to form bonds of respect … Thoughtful and thoroughly well-told—just the right treatment for a subject about which many books have been written before, few so successfully.