News of the World
Author: Paulette Jiles;
Genre: Historical Novel/Western;
Publisher: William Morrow (2016).
Once in a while, a novel comes along that really surprises me. Perhaps I read too many books authored by inexperienced writers, and when a great one crosses my path, I’m shocked by how well it’s done. That happened with this book. Not only is the story wonderful, but the writing is almost poetic.
The plot is very simple. In 1870, Captain Kidd, a widower and veteran of several wars, roams the state of Texas, reading news from domestic and foreign newspapers for residents who pay a dime for the pleasure of keeping up on current events. He reluctantly takes on the daunting task of returning a young girl, Johanna, captured by the Kiowa years earlier, to her white relatives in Castroville, near San Antonio.
The girl has forgotten her previous life and is a handful, to put it mildly. The long trip by wagon includes a shoot-out using some inventive ammo, political feuds, chicken stealing, and English lessons. The story doesn’t end when they reach Castroville, either.
The author chose to write without using quotation marks, which takes a little getting used to. The language seems very authentic, the characters are fascinating, and the descriptions are terrific. Not a long book but one that will stay with you. I laughed, I cried, I was sorry it ended.
Highly recommended, especially for those who like Texas or western history and good character studies.