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News of the World

by Paulette Jiles

News of the World by Paulette Jiles X
News of the World by Paulette Jiles
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2016, 224 pages

    Jun 2017, 224 pages


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There are currently 37 reader reviews for News of the World
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Power Reviewer
Cathryn Conroy

Read This Book, and a Simple Dime (Yes, the 10-Cent Coin) Will Never Be the Same Again
If you read this book, you will never hold a dime—yes, a simple 10-cent coin—in your hand again and think of it in the same way. No spoilers here! I won't tell you why, but trust me that it is worth reading the book just to find out.

The Civil War has ended. The wilds of Texas are unruly, to say the least. Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, age 72, is old and tired. Widowed with daughters who now live in Florida, he earns his meager way in life by traveling from town to town setting himself up in auditoriums reading selected articles from newspapers—the news of the world. And then an old friend, who is a freed slave, presents him with a 10-year-old white girl, Johanna. When she was six-years-old, her parents and sister were brutally murdered by the Kiowa, while Johanna was kidnapped by the tribe. Four years later she has been rescued. Would Captain Kidd return her to her nearest kin, an aunt and uncle living on the other side of Texas? Because he is an honorable man, he does so. Johanna is not your typical 10-year-old white girl. She has been totally brainwashed by the Kiowa and is fighting her reunion into civilized society every step of the way. She speaks only the Kiowa language, having forgotten every word of English she ever knew. The two set off on what can only be described as an adventure…a highly emotional adventure.

Bonus: Author Paulette Jiles prodigiously researched this era in Texas's history, so as the story springs from the page, so do many facts and figures about life in what can only be described as the wild west of the 1870s.

While the story is slow-moving and occasionally cumbersome early on, it is ultimately engaging in a way that will grab your heart and make you cheer. It is both tender and tough.
Tonyia Robinson

Story telling at its finest
Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd is a veteran of 2 wars, now he makes his living traveling the small towns of the North Texas Territory reading the news of the world from the nations leading newspapers. He charges a dime a head, and the people flock to hear anything about the world outside their small communities. But then he is given the task, for a 50 dollar gold piece, to deliver a young girl to her relatives in San Antonio. A white girl, Susana, captured by the Kiowa Indians after they massacred her parents; she was 6 years old. Now at age 10, after having been rescued by the Army, she has no memory of her previous life; not family, nor language, culture or childhood behavior.

The author gives us insight and a fair representation of how the Texas (US) was evolving between the conflict of white newcomers/immigrants into this territory, changes for the lifestyle and culture (survival) of the Kiowa Indians after several battles/attacks; displacement to reservations, impact on their culture and lifestyle. Even the arrival of ex-slaves or slaves already residing in the territory learning their new rights after the Civil War, and dealing with many whites not accepting the new laws; Black slaves (Negroes) new freedoms and rights. So many dynamics and changes of the people who now reside in Texas, including the after math and impact of people who lived in the region before/after the Spanish-American war.

Given the results of these changes in the Territory of Texas and the republic, what transpires in this beautifully written novel is the story of the journey of Kidd’s and Suzannas, to her relatives from Germany, The reader experiences the dangers and hardships that Kidd and the girl endures on their journey including the trust, respect, and friendship that they developed along the way. Two characters, so beautifully conceived and developed, and so likable, they make reading this book an absolute pleasure.

Worth a second read
The first time I read “News of the World,” I breezed through it because I couldn’t wait to find out how the story ended. The second time I read it (which was immediately after the first), I slowed down to savor the details I had missed the first time and to luxuriate in Paulette Jiles' lush language. It’s that good.
Ruth H

Amazing Read
What an amazing story. Could not put it down! Capt. Jefferson Kyle Kidd takes on a captured 10 year old girl for a most dangerous trip in 1870 through Texas. Could not imagine how difficult this must have been. Author Paulette Jiles has written so descriptively that one would imagine being right there. So enjoyed this book.
Power Reviewer

A lovely, spare novel
This is a wise book. The story of an old man who has lost all his worldly possessions in the Civil War and now reads the newspapers to folks who cannot read or have no access to papers and the 10-year-old returning Kiowa captive girl who has now lost two families in heart wrenching circumstances is also a tale of love, hope and the unbreakable human spirit. Told in spare prose, the story is itself spare, and that moves the reader more than more florid words could.
Doris, one of the supporting characters says of Johanna and other returned captives, “our first creation is a turning of the soul…toward the light. To go through another, tears all the making of the first… to bits…they are forever falling.” (pg.56) Good and evil live in this book. Good wins and we are gladdened.
A lovely book that I can highly recommend.
5 of 5 stars
Kelli R. (Birmingham, AL)

Quiet and Powerful
After finishing News of the World yesterday, I was thrilled to learn that it made the longlist for this year's National Book Award for Fiction. What a justified honor! Captain Kidd and Johanna will linger for some time in my recollections. As the unlikely duo arrived at their destination, I felt real heartache for the futures of the old retired Army Captain and the orphan/former captive. All that emotion in only 200 or so pages! As any good historical novel should do, it also piqued my interest in Texas history following the Civil War and the phenomena of children captured and adopted by Native American tribes. I plan to pass this book along to my mother who currently lives in the Texas Hill Country which plays a prominent role in the story albeit quite unrecognizable but strangely familiar to today's Texas Hill Country. I highly recommend this novel and look forward to exploring more by Paulette Jiles.

A Journey of Trust
In “News of the World,” Paulette Jiles, author of “Enemy Women,” has written a story of courage, compassion, and dedication.

In the sparsely-populated Texas plains, news is hard to come by, so Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, an elderly widow who has fought in two wars, travels from town to town reading from newspapers to audiences interested in what is happening in the world such as the Irish immigration, erupting volcanoes, and the westward progress of the railroad.

He is happy with his solitary life. Then, in Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver an orphaned 10-year old girl, Johanna, to her relatives in San Antonio. Joanna was taken four years earlier by the Kiowas who murdered her parents and sister. Rescued by the U.S. Army, Johanna has little memory of her life before her capture, and has completely assimilated the Kiowa life.

Kidd and Johanna set out on the hazardous 400-mile journey, not understanding each others language. Feeling that she has lost the only family she ever knew, Johanna attempts to escape several times, throws away her shoes, eats with her hands, and even steals a chicken from a friendly soul who gives them a place to camp for the night.

At each town along the way, when they stop for the night, Kidd finds someone to watch Johanna while he gives a reading to the interested townspeople. He still needs the dime-a-head admission, and readers will find out later in the book just how handy those dimes turn out to be.

As they travel, they begin to understand each others language, and Kidd tries to teach her table manners and the proper way to eat. Johanna starts calling him “Kep-dun,” then, one day, she calls him “Kontah,” the Kiowa word for “grandfather.”

“The Captain never did understand what had caused such a total change in a little girl from a German household and adopted into a Kiowa one. In a mere four years, she completely forgot her alphabet. She forgot how to use a knife and a fork and how to sing in European scales. And once she was returned to her own people, nothing came back,” Jiles writes.

They forge a bond on their journey as they face Comanche raids, bandits, and bad weather, while Kidd tries to prepare her for her German aunt and uncle.

The closer they draw to San Antonio, the more Kidd worries. Johanna was yanked from one family, then from her second one that she recognized as her true family. Now, becoming familiar with Kidd, she is about to undergo a third separation for, once again, an entirely different existence.

Jiles writes "She felt the arrival of something chilling, something wrong. Something lonely. He was the only person she had left in the world and the only human being she now knew. He was strong and wise and they had fought together at the springs. She ate with a fork now and wore the horrible dresses without complaint. What had she done wrong?"

Jiles captures the feel of the Texas landscape, from the plains of north Texas to the Hill Country to the desert of San Antonio. Moreover, she writes a beautiful story of courage, acceptance, and love.
Mary P. (Bellingham, WA)

News of the World
I like this novel a lot. It's the story a 400-mile journey through a lawless Texas in the 1870s, by horseback, a well-used wagon, and on foot. Retired Army Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, who is 70 years old and feeling his age, is offered a $50 gold piece to take a 10-year-old orphan who was abducted by Kiowa Indians when she was 6, after seeing her mother and sister killed, to relatives in San Antonio. She is member of the tribe, but the Kiowas no longer want her. It's reasonable for Kidd to take Johanna with him as he earns his keep by reading entertaining newspapers in various towns. Similarly, Paulette tells the story, not as a narrator, but as a reporter, with details of the terrain; the towns; the people, many of whom hate Indians; of Kidd's efforts to try to reteach Johanna some of the culture she is supposed to reenter.

One of the most enjoyable facets of Jiles' writing is in its cinematic quality. This is a Western, albeit unconventional. What is it like to have to immerse yourself in a culture completely alien to what you are used to? A bond grows between two people who are unlikely to care for each other; how does that happen? I didn't want to see the novel end, the story of Judd and Johanna cries for more. I highly recommend this book, and will seek out other works by Paulette Jiles.

Beyond the Book:
  Late 19th Century Texas

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