Tuesday, October 18, 2016

News of the World by Paulette Jiles

Long before Paulette Jiles' News of the World was nominated for the National Book Award, I agreed to participate in the book tour for the novel. It's a small book, only 224 pages, but it's a powerful story with sections that will remind readers of today's political climate. Texas in 1870 was as tumultuous as today's United States, pitting neighbor against neighbor.

Seventy-year-old Army Captain Jefferson Kyl Kidd had seen three wars in his lifetime. Now, he travels through northern Texas doing live readings from East Coast newspapers to paying customers, people eager for the news, or, often ones who can read it for themselves. But, Texas isn't the easiest place for travel after the Civil War. There are men on the road, eager to make money by holding up travelers. There are restless tribes attacking small communities. And, the disputes between the rival political parties have brought out the worst in people. Now, Captain Kidd has an added burden. For a fifty-dollar gold piece, he agrees to return Johanna Leonberger to her family in San Antonio. The young girl of about ten was captured four years earlier when her parents and sister were killed in a raid by the Kiowa. Now, Johanna no longer speaks English, and only wants to return to her Kiowa family.

Captain Kidd is a courageous man, determined to deliver Johanna to her family. Along the way, he does his best to teach her a little English, and re-teach her the way of living in a "civilized" world, eating properly, dressing properly. He takes his charge seriously, and knows he must protect the child along the way. Together, the two take on an arduous journey, one that will change both of them.

Jiles was interested in what happened to all the children who were kidnapped, and how they failed to assimilate when they were returned to their homes. She discusses Johanna at length, and her author's note mentions other sources. But, she also has other messages, and other purposes in the book. Captain Kidd himself, based on a real person, spreads the news of the world throughout Texas. "Maybe life is just carrying news. Surviving to carry the news. Maybe we have just one message, and it is delivered to us when we are born and we are never sure what it says, it may have nothing to do with us personally but it must be carried by hand through a life, all the way, and at the end handed over, sealed."

Paulette Jiles' News of the World has a mighty message for such a small book.

Paulette Jiles' website is www.paulettejiles.com.

News of the World by Paulette Jiles. William Morrow. 2016. ISBN 9780062409201 (hardcover), 224p.

Here's the purchase link from HarperCollins - https://www.harpercollins.com/9780062409201/news-of-the-world

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book in order to participate in the book tour.


Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

Adoption of white settlers into Indian tribes was the focus on a class I took in college. Almost every person who was kidnapped or otherwise taken in ended up wanting to stay with the tribe in the end. That alone is utterly fascinating to me, so I can see why the author felt drawn to this topic.

Thanks for being a part of the tour!

Lesa said...

What a fascinating class, Heather. You're welcome!