Paulette Jiles' latest novel is News of the World. It's also a National Book Award finalist.
1870. Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, 71 years old, earns his living travelling through Texas, reading newspaper articles to audiences in small towns. It is in one of those small towns that his friend Britt approaches him and asks him to deliver something for him. Actually it's a someone. A ten year old girl, kidnapped by the Kiowas when she was six. The family paid Britt to rescue her and deliver her back to her last living relatives. And because its the right thing to do, Kidd agrees. But Johanna has no memory of her life before the Kiowa, speaks no English and has no idea why she has been taken from her Kiowa family. It's a 400 mile trip through rough and dangerous country for an old man and a child.....
Oh, my......this was such an amazing read on so many levels. Kidd is a great lead - intelligent, moral, brave, determined and steadfast. But also with an eye on the world beyond his scope. Throughout the narrative we learn more about his past and the roads he chose to take in his seventy one years. His life has been rich and full, filled with both good and bad. (Kidd is based on an actual historical figure who was a reader in Texas in the 1870's)
We get short glimpses into Johanna's mind and thinking throughout the trip - her take on what is happening. She too is a strong character with the same qualities as Kidd - brave and determined. Think what she has lived through in her short ten years.
But it is the burgeoning relationship between the two that had me unable to put the book down. Over the 400 miles, they face much - and share much. The relationship is built without straying into saccharine over-sentimentality.
Every uncertain situation on the trip had me perched on the edge of my seat, hoping that he and Johanna make it through. But, I wondered, what would happen if they reached the end? And for answers to that question, you're going to have to pick up the book. I heartily recommend that you do.
Historical fiction fascinates me. I often think that I was born into the wrong century. Jiles brings her time and setting to life with detailed description - the wagon, meals, dusty roads and small settlements, recreating the political and racial tension of the time and so much more.
Jiles employs a 'no punctuation' style for her book. It only took a page or two to get used to it. And I think it was the perfect style for this book - it matches the pared down, no frills tone and tenor of both the time period and their journey.
I'm always on the lookout as I read for the meaning behind the title of a book. In this case it's multi-faceted. Kidd delivers the news of the world in his reading rounds. But also the idea that we are born with a message - one that we will never know the contents of until it is delivered to the pearly gates.
I finished News of the World in one evening. And thought about it long after the final page. And wondered why I haven't read Paulette Jiles before. That will be changing - I'm going to look up her backlist. News of the World - and the map that came with it - has earned a permanent place on my bookshelf. Read an excerpt of News of the World.
"Paulette 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, Texas." You can connect with Paulette Jiles on her website.
See what others on the TLC book tour thought - full schedule can be found here.
I received this book for review from HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours.