Book review: 'News of the World' is Paulette Jiles' newest Western about duty and family
Posted April 23
Paulette Jiles, a New York Times best-selling author, has once again crafted a story of cinematic proportions with crystalline beauty. Her newest historical-fiction novel, "News of the World," tells the story of Capt. Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a 71-year-old widower and veteran of multiple early American wars, who takes on the responsibility of returning a girl, Johanna, to her extended family. Taken captive by members of the Kiowa Tribe four years earlier, Johanna is 10 years old, with blonde hair, blue eyes, no knowledge of the English language and no desire to leave behind the Kiowa culture that she has adopted.
Kidd, a printer by heart who lost his press to martial law, reads excerpts of newspapers from around the world to willing listeners across Texas. When Johanna's care is placed in his hands, Kidd begins the 400-mile journey from Wichita Falls back to Johanna's extended family near San Antonio.
In classic Western style, there is danger along the journey home and lessons about humanity and trust to be learned by Johanna and the captain.
"News of the World" stands alone, but it can be read as a spinoff of Jiles' book "The Color of Lightning," in which the captain also appears.
Jiles does an outstanding job weaving historical circumstances and location into her narrative. Set in Texas shortly after the Civil War's end, "News of the World" portrays a state in turmoil economically, politically and ideologically.
"News of the World" is written in third person, as if being read by the captain himself, with little regard for traditional punctuation or quotation marks. This charming narration may be surprising for readers not expecting it (or for readers who like to speed-read through a book by focusing on dialogue). Jiles' prose is so stunning, however, that having the narration written in such a way ensures that readers will catch every one of her beautiful phrases.
The book contains mild Western violence, a reference to child prostitution and a few mild swear words. It is exceptionally wholesome and will likely become fodder for book clubs everywhere.
Miranda H. Lotz is an avid book lover and nature enthusiast. She blogs about her journey as a mother of a special-needs child at www.timeinthevineyard.com