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Review: News of the World by Paulette Jiles

Title: News of the World

Author: Paulette Jiles

Year Published: 2016

Category: Adult fiction
Pages: 224
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2020 Google Reading map)USA (TX)

FTC Disclosure: The author gave me a copy of this book for an honest review.

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): 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.
Review:  I forgot that Tom Hanks is starring in the movie adaptation of this book that comes out this week. When I searched for this book to get an image of the cover, up popped sites only about the movie.

I think I am going to be in the minority here when I say that this book was just okay for me. The writing is really good though I do like a book to use quotation marks around dialogue. The author's descriptions of their surroundings is excellent; I got a sense of what the trip through Texas looked and felt like. And, I think the story is interesting, especially given that it is based on history that did in fact happen during that time, but something about it just didn't totally grip me. It's not my favorite time period in history and perhaps that colored my opinon.

One other aspect that sticks with me is the white male savior storyline. I do like that he is kind and caring and that she warms to him, but I spent much of the book thinking about the Native American family that had raised her for 4 years and for the girl herself who had been torn from 2 families to now have to adjust to a third. Perhaps I was looking for stability during the pandemic, who knows. I am discussing this book with my high school girlfriends in January so we'll see what they all thought of it.

One thing I loved about this story is the fact that Captain Kidd traveled the state of Texas reading the news to people. I liked the descriptions of him preparing to do his readings and the readings themselves. I love that idea of those who could read sharing the latest news with others.

Challenges for which this counts: 

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