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NEWS OF THE WORLD by Paulette Jiles
As I finished the final pages of News Of The World I realized just how much I enjoyed this story of an unlikely relationship developing under difficult circumstances.
Jiles is a gifted wordsmith whose descriptive prose creates vivid physical and emotional landscapes that you slip into without effort. Although it is filled with interesting and lesser known historical facts of the time period and culture, it is the portrayal of the evolving relationship between two unique characters that is particularly moving and beautiful. At times I found the story so engaging I couldn't turn the pages fast enough, at other times I lingered.
Set in Texas of the 1870s, Captain Kidd, a 72 year old retired army captain and former newspaper publisher, travels to small towns in Texas to read news articles to local folks who are hungry for news from around the world. His routine is unexpectedly disrupted when he reluctantly accepts the task of transporting to relatives a recently re-captured 10 year girl who four years earlier had been taken captive by an Indian tribe. Although she doesn't understand english she is shrewd,resilient and determined to escape from the people who are taking her away from her beloved Indian family. The arduous journey across Texas is filled with countless hostile encounters and to survive their resistance transforms into reliance and distrust into trust.
In the end I found News Of The World to be a subtle yet powerful story about compassion and transformation. Jiles could have drawn out the story, could have packed in more details but she didn’t need to. It’s a wholly satisfying story as is.
— From Sharon's Picks
“This short, powerful novel is historical fiction at its best! Captain Kidd, a 72-year-old war veteran and professional news reader, has been tasked with returning Johanna, a 10-year-old white girl kidnapped by the Kiowa when she was six and recently ransomed, to relatives living near San Antonio. The Captain knows the journey will not be easy but believes it is his duty to do the right thing, despite the dangers that lie ahead. What he doesn't expect is the strength of the bond that develops between him and Johanna, one so powerful that it defines the choice he makes at journey's end. Beautifully descriptive prose drives the narrative through the harsh and unforgiving landscape of the West during the late 1800s.”
— Adrian Newell, Warwick's, La Jolla, CA
National Book Award Finalist--Fiction
In the aftermath of the Civil War, an aging itinerant news reader agrees to transport a young captive of the Kiowa back to her people in this exquisitely rendered, morally complex, multilayered novel of historical fiction from the author of Enemy Women that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.
In the wake of the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings from newspapers to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence.
In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna's parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the ten-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows.
Their 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Johanna has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act "civilized." Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forming a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land.
Arriving in San Antonio, the reunion is neither happy nor welcome. The captain must hand Johanna over to an aunt and uncle she does not remember--strangers who regard her as an unwanted burden. A respectable man, Captain Kidd is faced with a terrible choice: abandon the girl to her fate or become--in the eyes of the law--a kidnapper himself.