National Book Award Finalist—Fiction
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.
An Amazon Best Book of October 2016: I’ll admit, Paulette Jiles’s News of the World was not at the top of my to-read pile. It’s a post-Civil War western, the good guys are good, the bad guys are bad, and you can be sure the former will ride off into the sunset at the story’s end (Womp, Womp). But, what is wrong with that, you say? As it turns out, not a darn thing. Captain Jefferson Kyle is a war-weary widower, traveling from town to town reading relevant bits of news to paying customers. In one such town he is given a $50 dollar gold piece to ferry a kidnapped girl back to what’s left of her family--her parents and sister having been murdered by members of the Kiowa tribe--who spare the then 6-year-old and raise her as one of their own. Fast-forward four years and tribe life is the only life she knows, so she’s not about to go quietly with a stranger who doesn’t speak her language, whose motives she does not trust, and to a place that is not what she now considers home. Thus begins a seemingly ill-advised but transformative road trip where the mismatched pair eventually form and uneasy truce, then a not-so begrudging alliance, and finally something more wonderful that neither Captain nor kid could have imagined. Save for the carnage, this could be a great plot for Disney movie, and there is even a cinematic showdown thrown in for good measure. But in the complex world that we live in, sometimes it’s nice to know who is wearing the white hats, and who is wearing the black hats, and to root for someone who—out of a sense of duty, and later, love--is doing something pure and good. And that’s what News of the World is: Pure and good. --Erin Kodicek, The Amazon Book Review