Book Review: News of the World (2016)

In 1870, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd is asked to deliver a 10-year-old German girl back to her relatives in San Antonio in exchange for $50 in gold. He agrees. Johanna’s parents had been killed by the Kiowa when she was 6, but she was spared and raised as one of their own for four years. Facing a 400-mile journey filled with threats of ambush and an uncooperative charge, Captain Kidd wonders if his choice to deliver the girl was the right one. Prior to accepting this mission, the 71-year old Kidd had roamed northern Texas, performing live readings from newspapers to paying audiences hungry for “news of the world.”

This book has been on my list for a long time; reviewers and coworkers have recommended Paulette Jiles for years. I avoided her novels because they are set during the Civil War or the Great Depression, and I assumed they would be unpleasant, if not downright gruesome. Who wants to read about that during the current pandemic?

On my last day at PFL before the closure, I was browsing the shelves for a month’s worth of reading material. I grabbed News of the World, The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead, Home for Erring and Outcast Girls by Julie Kibler, and City of Thieves by David Benioff. The only book I did not finish was Whitehead’s.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Jiles’ novel. It was a quick read at 209 pages, but also because I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next, what the final outcome would be. Would the Captain and his ten-year old charge survive their journey? Would Johanna be re-united with her extended family? For the answers to those questions, you’ll have to read the book. My lips are sealed!

The inclusion of a map allowed me to follow the journey of Captain Kidd (“Kep-dun”) and Johanna (“Cho-henna”) from Wichita Falls to San Antonio. Having lived in Dallas for several years, when I also visited Fort Worth, Austin, and San Antonio, I found it fascinating to learn what these modern major cities were like in the years immediately after the Civil War.

Reviewed by Leslie Mortimer, Adult Services Manager

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