Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies! I read the neatest little book this weekend, and although it's short, it's a mighty good story. :D If you have a list of must-reads for 2016, News of the World should be at the top of your list!
About News of the World• Hardcover: 224 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (October 4, 2016)
Shortlisted for the National Book Award–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.
About Paulette JilesPaulette Jiles is a novelist, poet, and memoirist. She is the author of Cousins, a memoir, and the novels Enemy Women, Stormy Weather, The Color of Lightning, Lighthouse Island, and News of the World. She lives on a ranch near San Antonio, TX. Find out more about Paulette at her website.
Nothing makes my week like discovering a true wordsmith: Paulette Jiles is a lyrical writer, and I've already ordered a couple of her books to read during the Christmas holidays. News of the World is now a finalist for the 2016 National Book Award and it is a book deserving of accolades. Jiles is a true artist: she paints pictures with her words. Her lyrical style is breathtaking! Here's an example:
It was March 5 and cold, his breath fumed and his old muffler was dank with the steam. Above and behind them the Dipper turned on its great handle as if to pour night itself out onto the dreaming continent and each of its seven stars gleamed from between the fitful passing of clouds (Page 96).
The characters in this novel are unforgettable. Capt. Kidd earns his living traveling around Northern Texas reading newspapers to large gatherings of folks for a dime a pop. He carefully chooses which articles to share with his audience: the more exotic the better, and he has learned which articles to begin and end each session. He never reads local news especially about politics. Texas is way to divided, and the last thing he wants to do is incite a riot. Obviously Kidd loves the printed word. He lost his printer, business, and "almost everything else" in the War Between the States because he's Southern. I absolutely love the concept of a traveling news reader because today we get our news instantaneously, so much so that anything that happened last week is old news.
Kidd has such a big heart that he couldn't turn down the opportunity to return ten-year-old Johanna to her German aunt and uncle who live near San Antonio. Fortunately some of the book is told from her point of view rather than the Captain's. She is a smart, complex little girl who has lived with the Kiowa Indians since she was six. American white culture is lost to her, but she's a quick study, and I was happy to get inside her head to learn what she was thinking at different points during the story. She has a knack for reading people, and she trusts Kidd from fairly early on in the narrative. I adored Doris's description of her. Irish and wise, she describes Johanna as being "like an elf. She is like a fairy person from the glamorie. They are not one thing or another (page 55)."
Most of the plot concerns Captain Kidd and Johanna's travels from Wichita Falls to D'Hanis. There are many obstacles en route, and unfortunately most are from the lawless Texans rather than the weather or terrain. Kidd's commentaries on these nefarious characters as well as his interactions with them are literary genius. Still, I am amazed that Kidd is so well defined in such a short book.
My ARC included the above map of Capt. Kidd and Johanna's route from Wichita Falls to D'Hanis.
Disclosure: I received an ARC of News of the World from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.
What have you been reading? Please share in the comments section below.
Until next time...