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