What does it mean to be free? What happens when “saving” someone isn’t necessarily saving that person? Paulette Jiles explores these questions, beautifully, in her book, News of the World. Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels and performs the newspaper for those who want to know what’s going on, but who cannot themselves read the news. This lifestyle suits the widower, and he enjoys what he does. Then, he is asked to help return Johanna, a 10 year old girl, to her relatives. Johanna has forgotten how to speak English, and tries to run away constantly during their 400-mile journey to her relatives.
Like Jiles’ other novels, News of the World is beautifully written. Her words almost sing on the page. Not only does the adventure that the two travelers take keep one turning the page, but the development of the characters and the relationship between Captain Kidd and Johanna also keeps readers engaged from beginning to end.
• Paperback: 240 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (June 20, 2017)
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.
About Paulette Jiles
Paulette Jiles is a novelist, poet, and memoirist. She is the author of Cousins, a memoir, and the novels Enemy Women, Stormy Weather, The Color of Lightning, Lighthouse Island, and News of the World. She lives on a ranch near San Antonio, TX.
Find out more about Paulette at her website.