Friday, October 14, 2016
News Of The World by Paulette Jiles
The year is 1870 and Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd is no longer a young man. He has spent his adult life fighting wars, it seems, first the Indians and then the Civil War which took his livelihood. His wife is gone also and her death weighs on him. His two daughters are far away back in the South he has left. Captain Kidd is a news reader. He wanders from small rural Texas town to small town and in each town he books a meeting place. There he reads stories about the world from newspapers to people who will never travel to other places and who have a limited idea about the world and everything in it. It's not what the Captain expected to be doing in his seventies and he won't ever get rich doing it, but its a life and one that has its rewards.
Everything changes when he is hired to deliver Johanna Leonberger back to her family. Johanna was six when the Kiowa raiders came to her farm and killed her parents and siblings. For some reason, they took Johanna with them and she has lived with them for four years and now considers herself to be Indian. She has forgotten English and the German of her family. She has forgotten forks and knives, books and dolls, women's clothes and towns. She can make a fire and cook dinner and has a warrior's heart. All she wants is to escape from Captain Kidd and rejoin her tribe, the tribe that sold her back to the white settlers. Kidd agrees to make the four hundred mile journey through Texas to take Johanna back home, back to her aunt and uncle.
The trip is perilous and Johanna is not an easy traveling companion. She attempts to escape and it takes days to start to teach her how to eat and start to regain her former languages. There is danger on the road. There are roving bands of men who have little to lose after the war and rival loyalties that tear towns apart. There are people who want to capture Johanna for their own purposes. There are still roving bands of Indians as well as roving bands of desperadoes who will kill for a few coins. The weather and terrain are dangerous but all that Captain Kidd expected. What he didn't expect was to fall in love one more time in his life, a love for a child who seems to have no one else.
Paulette Jiles identifies as a poet and her poetry background is evident in the haunting language and descriptions in this novel. She explores the concept of family and the place that chance has in our lives. She has written bestselling novels such as Enemy Women, Stormy Weather, The Color Of Lightning and Lighthouse Island. News Of The World has been selected as a National Book Award finalist. This novel is recommended for readers of historical fiction and those interested in what makes a family.