News of the World by Paulette Jiles
20106 William Morrow
Finished on October 18, 2017
Rating: 4.5/5 (Excellent!)
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.
I loved this book! I read it based on my mom's recommendation and once I finished, we both suggested it to my husband, as it's not only a love story (of sorts), but an adventurous western in the vein of Lonesome Dove and True Grit. It starts off a little slow, but once I got in a few chapters, I was hooked and couldn't put it down. I loved Johanna spunk's and Captain Kidd's fatherly tenderness toward her. The "wild west" aspects of the story brought to mind Nancy Turner's great novel, These Is My Words (another great novel!).
Captain Kidd read carefully and precisely. His eyeglasses were round and rimmed in gold over his deep eyes. He always laid his small gold hunting watch to one side of the podium to time his reading. He had the appearance of wisdom and age and authority, which was why his readings were popular and the reason the dimes rang into the coffee can. When they read his handbills men abandoned the saloon, they slipped out of various unnamed establishments, they ran through the rain from their firelit homes, they left the cattle circled and bedded beside the flooding Red to come and hear the news of the distant world.This is the first book I've read by Paulette Jiles and I fell in love with her lyrical writing.
...Long bright crawls of water slid across the livery stable floor and took up the light of the lantern like a luminous stain and the roof shook with the percussion of drops as big as nickles.
This one's a keeper and one to read again. I loved the humor Jiles infuses in her dialogue and while I found myself laughing out loud more than once, the last few pages brought more than one tear to my eye. However, without revealing the outcome, the conclusion is very satisfying. I highly recommend this little gem of a novel and wish I was still working at Barnes & Noble so I could recommend it to all my favorite customers. Oh, and yes. My husband loved it, too. Jiles is a great storyteller and I look forward to reading more from her backlist.