A Book I Wish More Readers Would Enjoy

Sometimes when I interview readers for this blog, I ask: what book do you wish more readers would read?

Today I wish to answer my own question. Not with some thick tome, some bit of philosophy I consider very important. I answer with the title of a moving read too many of you have missed.

News of the World by Paulette Jiles. It is a beautiful read, a tale that scoops one up for a ride that doesn’t stop until the last page is read. Since I wrote about this book previously in a blog post, it became a finalist for the National Book Award. I expect that book clubs will love it.

In this tale of the Old West 10-year-old Johanna, captured by Kiowa raiders at age 6, has lived among them since that time. Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd who is a 70 year old war veteran rescues her and plans to take her to live with relatives near San Antonio. It is to be a long journey. Johanna is frightened, doesn’t remember English and is reluctant to go.

The journey is remarkable for a number of reasons. The characters are absolute standouts whose interactions and learnings along the way will amaze the reader. Joanna manages feats more exciting than Wonder Woman on a comic strip page. The author writes movingly of her characters and of Texas in the late 1870s. It is a timely story told in lovely prose.

It is a must read for history lovers and for those that are willing to see an often maligned landscape in a new light. The characters pack a real whollop. This title was named the top book of 2016 by BookPage. Oh, and it’s expected to become a film starring Tom Hanks. Perfect casting. This one I have to see. I hope you read this book and see the movie when it comes out. It’s a small book, filled with a tight, tense story, but so satisfying. Go on – give it a try!



News of the World: a novel
Author Paulette Jiles
Publisher: William Morrow (2016)
Genre: Historical Fiction
Hardcover Edition: 209 pages
Source: Personal copy

This author’s first well-known book Enemy Women introduced readers to conditions and happenings in Missouri during the Civil War. That was new territory to many. Now, in what may be her best novel yet, she takes readers to another unfamiliar circumstance in the 19th century. The story told in News of the World takes place in central Texas in 1870 where 72-year-old Captain Kid, a former soldier and printer now earns his living through live readings from newspapers to citizens of small towns. These folks are hungry for news of the world and pay a dime to listen to the distinguished man with the booming, well-modulated voice.

At the beginning of the story, Captain Kidd is charged with returning a young Kiowa girl who was captured from her Texas family and now has been rescued from the Kiowa tribe. Their journey is many miles long through wild and dangerous territory.

The journey is much more than the danger. It takes the reader through the Texas landscape, which comes alive in surprising beauty. Jiles ability to conjure the geology and geography of Texas, more beautiful than many readers may have imagined or appreciated. There is magic in the different rivers, each with its own personality. Every scene, every variety of grass, every strain of rock comes filled with life.

The developing relationship between the wild young Indian girl, Johanna, who has no memory of her white life and the aging Captain Kidd is amazing to witness as they meet life on the road and experience terrorizing adventures. Most hearts melt, in the story, and among readers. It is amazing. And, it is amazing to witness Johanna’s learning and changing.

Captivity narratives true to life seldom involved easy or complete transformations. These stories are an opportunity to see white civilization from the outside, not always a pretty picture. This exquisitely written story, grounded in reality and known psychology, is an outstanding example of that genre. The poetry-like prose touches the ear and the heart. Jiles writes with great clarity. And – there is plenty of action-adventure. It’s a vigorous story. The author’s empathy and love for her characters paves the wave for greater understanding. Fresh viewpoints ring loudly as news of our world worthy of our attention.

Highly recommended!

If you are interested in captivity narratives, comment and I will e-mail several titles I have enjoyed.