News of the World

News of the World

by Paulette Jiles

Overview: 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.

Deanna Boe (04/25/19) What a surprise and absolute delight is found in this quick and easy to read novel. I wasn’t quite sure when I started it as to what it was going to be like, but it didn’t take long to fall in love with this author’s writing and the story that she created for our enjoyment. I have read previous books about young children who were captured by Native Americans, raised as their own, until they are returned to their original families. Instead of being happy to be returned, these children found it difficult to readapt to the “white man’s world,” strange as that may seem, even if they had only been captured for a year.

Jiles has spun a tale about a 71 year old man, who had been a Captain in the military, but now travels around the outer areas of Texas after the Civil War; his name is Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd. Captain Kidd makes his living by reading from newspapers in these small outposts to people who either can’t read or simply can’t get any recent news where they are living. Before the Civil War Captain Kidd had owned his own printing press in San Antonio; he can no longer own it since he supported the Confederate army.

Captain Kidd is a kind man, well respected, so it isn’t any wonder he was asked to do something no one else was willing to do, take a wild 10 year old girl to her relatives. This was a long trip from Wichita Falls to Castroville located just outside of San Antonio. The girl had been captured by the Kiowa Indians after they had killed the rest of her family. Johanna was only six years old when taken and after four years of living with them she felt they were her family. Johanna had even forgotten how to speak her family’s language, which was German.

This is a touching story that draws you into the gentle soul of the Captain and the terror and sadness of this young girl, who doesn’t understand what is happening to her. Jiles helps you to visualize just what it was like to be living in those outer areas of Texas during that time frame. The few conveniences they had, especially in the way of any luxuries. My hat is off to the women who were handed clothes that had been worn for days or even weeks, through all kinds of weather, to be washed by hand and then returned to the owners to once more wear for who knows how long. Jiles develops a special bond between the Captain and Johanna, so when he had to leave her with her aunt and uncle, who were known to be mean and tight, this 71 year old man’s heart breaks. How does he handle it? You will have to read this story to find out, it will only take you a matter of a few hours since it is a small book. Jiles writing is such that I kept finding myself wondering if this really did happen, was there a Captain Kidd and a young girl by the name of Johanna? I do know I liked the ending she created for us.
Rating: *****

Debbie Weiss (08/30/18) Johanna is a young girl whose parents and sister were killed by the Kiowa Indians four years earlier. She was subsequently raised by this same Indian tribe as one of their own. She speaks the Indian language and believes these natives to be her only family. Now she has been "rescued" by the U.S. Army and Captain Jefferson Kidd has been paid to return her to her relatives in Texas.

Captain Kidd is a widower who travels from town to town reading the news of the world to paying audiences. He is not happy with the task he has agreed to perform and the journey is difficult. However, along the way the two companians form a definite bond and when it comes time to leave Johanna, Captain Kidd has some serious decisions to make.

This is a sweet story with a nice ending.
Rating: ***

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