Poet and novelist Paulette Jiles’ latest book is once again set in the post-Civil War era, a time that she memorably evoked in previous works like The Color of Lightning. News of the World is a beautifully written story based on a real-life former soldier, Capt. Jefferson Kidd, who traveled the north Texas landscape in the 1870s reading the news—from politics to polar expeditions—to the inhabitants of small towns and frontier outposts who had no access to information outside their own limited environs.
In Wichita Falls, Capt. Kidd is approached by an old friend, Britt Johnson, for a favor. Johanna Leonberger was taken captive by the Kiowa after they killed her parents and sister. After four years with the tribe, she has been recovered. Britt asks the Captain to deliver the 10-year-old to her aunt and uncle outside San Antonio—a 400-mile journey fraught with danger from highwaymen, raiding Kiowa and the unforgiving landscape itself.
Jiles writes with great sensitivity about the bond that develops between the 70-year-old widower who has served in three wars and the girl who has completely forgotten her birth language, her parents, her people, her religion—even how to use a knife and fork. As their journey nears its end, Jiles conveys in sparse language the emotions of each of these perfectly drawn characters, building to a remarkable conclusion that will not soon be forgotten. News of the World is highly recommended historical fiction that brings to life an overlooked period of Texas history.