Tuesday, March 28, 2017

News of the World

I love Westerns.  I always have but it doesn't seem to be a popular genre these days.  So, when I heard about News of the World, by Paulette Jiles, I knew that I had to read it.  It did not disappoint.

Set in Texas shortly after the Civil War, News of the World chronicles the adventures of Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a seventy-something veteran of three wars, as he journeys across the state in order to return Johanna to her relatives.  Johanna, now ten years old, was captured by the Kiowa Indians when she was six.  Her parents and sister were killed in the attack, and she was adopted by the tribe and raised as a Kiowa.  Needless to say, she is not a willing participant in the journey at the outset, wanting to stay with the only family she now remembers.

I absolutely loved how their relationship evolved from wary distrust to love and loyalty and understanding.  They became comrades in arms.  They became a girl and her beloved grandfather, and Captain Kidd demonstrates some of the best parenting practices ever.

I also loved Captain Kidd's job--a former printer, he now reads the news of the world to residents of remote Texas towns.  His readings are paid-for performances, where locals pay a dime to hear about polar expeditions, scientific discoveries, the doings of royalty, and sundry other articles of interest.  I know that people like Mark Twain and Charles Dickens traveled around, doing readings of their work, but I never thought about how reading a newspaper from New York or London would provide an evening's entertainment.  It makes sense, though.  A precursor to CNN.

As the pair travels from Wichita Falls to San Antonio in the springtime, they encounter a variety of people, some of whom help them along the way and others who fight them to the death. They also encounter beautiful countryside and starry nights.  I haven't spent much time in Texas, but reading about spring in the hill country made me want to pack up the SUV and head south for a few weeks, to see the flowers and watch the birds.

Finally, there is a gun battle that the Captain and Johanna are involved in that is probably the single best Western frontier battle scene I've ever read.  The ingenuity of Johanna is simply delightful, and that is high praise considering gun battle scenes are not exactly my cup of tea.  Cliches aside, it is wonderful!


  1. That is so funny...I just finished reading this book yesterday! And I really enjoyed it, too. I even teared up a little at the end when he went back and took Johanna away with him. And that gun fight scene in the middle totally made me smile. What a great little book. :)

  2. I don't love Westerns, but I've read such good things about this book, so I will put it on my list!

  3. Great review of this book.

    I have not read many Westerns. However, like any other genre I think there are great books and not so great books and I lot of books in between.

    This sounds very good.

    For some real life stories about white children taken and raised by Native Americans I highly recommend S.C. Gwynne's Empire of The Summer Moon.

    1. Thanks for the recommendation, Brian. The story has peaked my interest in the subject and I am interested in reading more about it.

  4. I'm not much of a western reader, but this sounds like a good one!

  5. I'm glad you liked this one. I did too. I liked how she's never fully white again but identifies with the Indians. It is a gem of a read.