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News of the World Paperback – June 20, 2017
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The Amazon Book Review
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An Amazon Best Book of October 2016: I’ll admit, Paulette Jiles’s News of the World was not at the top of my to-read pile. It’s a post-Civil War western, the good guys are good, the bad guys are bad, and you can be sure the former will ride off into the sunset at the story’s end (Womp, Womp). But, what is wrong with that, you say? As it turns out, not a darn thing. Captain Jefferson Kyle is a war-weary widower, traveling from town to town reading relevant bits of news to paying customers. In one such town he is given a $50 dollar gold piece to ferry a kidnapped girl back to what’s left of her family--her parents and sister having been murdered by members of the Kiowa tribe--who spare the then 6-year-old and raise her as one of their own. Fast-forward four years and tribe life is the only life she knows, so she’s not about to go quietly with a stranger who doesn’t speak her language, whose motives she does not trust, and to a place that is not what she now considers home. Thus begins a seemingly ill-advised but transformative road trip where the mismatched pair eventually form and uneasy truce, then a not-so begrudging alliance, and finally something more wonderful that neither Captain nor kid could have imagined. Save for the carnage, this could be a great plot for Disney movie, and there is even a cinematic showdown thrown in for good measure. But in the complex world that we live in, sometimes it’s nice to know who is wearing the white hats, and who is wearing the black hats, and to root for someone who—out of a sense of duty, and later, love--is doing something pure and good. And that’s what News of the World is: Pure and good. --Erin Kodicek, The Amazon Book Review --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“This Western is not to be missed by Jiles’s fans and lovers of Texan historical fiction.” (Library Journal on NEWS OF THE WORLD)
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Nonetheless, Kidd takes on the assignment, and so begins this gem of a novel, which was sheer delight to read, and is still lingering in my mind some two weeks after finishing it. It's short, perfectly paced and constructed, and chronicles Kidd's journey with Johanna: both the physical voyage they make across the Texas landscape, and the obstacles they surmount together, and his internal journey, as he bonds with the young girl who begins to call him, alternatively, "Keh-pun", or the Kiowa word for grandfather. When Kidd discovers her aunt and uncle have a reputation for using their young relatives as indentured servants and working them to the bone, the dilemma is even more dramatic. What can or should he do, when all he wants is a peaceful old age?
I can't recommend this too highly. Like any great historical novel, it captures both a place and an era almost perfectly. Ostensibly it's a great Western adventure yarn, in the tradition of the shows those of a certain age might watch on their TVs or at the movies. But the real adventure is an emotional one. This packs a powerful emotional punch, and the writing is superb. Just don't miss it. It's a safe prediction that this slim volume is going to have everyone talking about it when it hits bookstores.
This tale of these two making their way through perils both natural (swollen rivers) and human (Indians and male predators) on the lengthy trip from Wichita Falls to San Antonio is completely absorbing.
This was another of the very rare books from which I couldn't bear to be separated. It went everywhere with me; it was in my hands as soon as I had a few free minutes. There are few historical books I've read that could begin to compare with News of the World. And comparisons being truly odious, I would do a great disservice to the author by naming the one or two that come to mind.
So I'll just say that this novel has my highest recommendation. It's a wonderful book, a great accomplishment.