In the aftermath of the American Civil War, an aging itinerant news reader agrees to transport a young captive of the Kiowa back to her people in this morally complex, multi-layered novel of historical fiction from the author of Enemy Women that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.
It is 1870, North Texas, rainy and cold. Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels from town to town giving readings from the latest newspapers, bringing the news of the world to isolated towns on the Texas frontier. In Wichita Falls, he is asked to return a captive girl to her relatives near San Antonio, 400 miles to the south. The old man and the ten-year-old start out on a hazardous journey, no less risky because the girl considers herself now a Kiowa and does not have the slightest desire to return. Bandits and Comanche raids and violent weather make as many difficulties as the ten-year old girl who can’t speak English, eats with her hands and knows how to use a revolver. In the end, he finds he must return her to relatives who don’t want her, even though he and the girl have become trusting friends. A story of courage and honor and the truth that these two things are often the possession of even the unlikeliest people.
News of the World is an adventure story, filled with danger and incident; a western, meticulously researched and rendered; and a two hundred-page prose poem with poetry’s usual virtues of compression, resonance, beauty, and power. Set in post-Civil War Texas, the chaos of that place and time are vividly depicted, even as the story remains primarily one of character. Paulette Jiles has shown how rich and deeply imagined the historical novel can be.