News of the World

News of the World
Paulette Giles
William Morrow, 2016

Fiction, Western
213 pages

Buy: Amazon
Borrow: Worldcat

It is 1870 and Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings 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, forging 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. Exquisitely rendered and morally complex, News of the World is a brilliant work of historical fiction that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.

–Description from Amazon

 

Captain Kidd reads the news in the small towns in Texas. At the time the novel is set, it’s still untamed and lawless. Along the route, he’s asked to transport a wild German girl–who was taken captive by the Kiowa– back to her relatives in San Antonio.

The title is very fitting and is used several times in the novel. Captain Kidd looks at his service as delivering the “news of the world” to those areas where it’s difficult to get any news at all due to lawlessness.

Jiles writes long sentences in lyrical prose. The descriptions were perfect. It’s easy to picture the characters and the setting without being completely overwhelmed.

Johanna is a unique character, and I’m curious to read more about real children in this situation. Jiles notes that white children never fully reacclimate once returned to their families; I find this fascinating and am interested in learning more.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would have finished it in one sitting had it not been taken away from me. I read the final chapter the following day and have been letting the novel sit with me ever since.

 

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