• Paperback: 240 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (June 20, 2017)
In the aftermath of the Civil War, an aging itinerant news reader agrees to transport a young captive of the Kiowa back to her people in this exquisitely rendered, morally complex, multilayered novel of historical fiction from the author of Enemy Women that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.
In the wake of the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings from newspapers 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, forming 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.
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Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd has survived some of the bloodiest battles in America's short history. Now, in 1870 the widowed Captain spends his time travelling and reading news from around the world to paying audiences. In Wichita Falls, he is called into service once again; but this time he isn't carrying news. Four years earlier, the Kiowa Indians slaughtered a family and took a six-year-old girl captive. She has been raised in the Kiowa culture, forgotten most of the English language and now has been re-captured to be returned to her aunt and uncle in Castroville, Texas. Captain Kidd takes on the wild, young Johanna for the 400 mile journey. Knowing nothing of the civilized world, Johanna is confused and upset, and keeping her safe and secure proves to be a challenge during the dangerous journey. However, as they progress the Captain and Johanna form a strong bond.
I loved the premise of this book, an older and wiser Captain Kidd taking in a young captive. Johanna's story, which is based on many true accounts of captive children who are returned to their original lives, captivated me. Johanna's journey in her mind was far more dangerous than their journey on the road. Johanna went through many emotional and psychological changes. We get a few insights into what is going on in her head, but not many. I feel like Johanna's inner dialogue would have been the most interesting; however the writing was done in third person, so we only get a few snippets. One quote that did stick out to me was: "It was not worth being alive when one was alone among aliens." The Captain's gentle, compassionate and patient nature with Johanna was wonderful to read about, without him, I'm sure she would not have survived. News of the World also gave me a great sense of what life was like in post-civil war Texas as the unlikely duo traveled from North to South throughout the state. This was a wonderful overview of the dangers, the people and the landscape of Texas at the time.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
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, TX.
Find out more about Paulette at her website.