If you have had enough of Hallmark “feel good” stories for a bit and need a change of pace from the home for the holidays theme, I have the book for you. It is “The News of the World” by Paulette Jiles. Don't be put off by the rather pedestrian title. I already made that mistake and ignored the review in the TIMES. But, as I turned to the next one, the last sentence of the reviewer caught my eye. It was something to the effect that since the book was much too short she had no excuse but to go back and read it again.
I found that intriguing, so I summoned up the text on my trusty Kindle and I lost my heart to the main characters: a 70 something veteran of the Civil War and a 10 year old girl kidnapped by the Kiowa Indians four years before and in need of being returned to her family. She has forgotten her English as well as the conventions of society, such as eating with something other than one’s fingers!
As Captain Kidd finances their journey by buying newspapers and then reading the highlights to an illiterate audience for ten cents an evening, they travel the length of Texas, through territory that is both dangerous and incredibly beautiful. In the process, he teaches his little companion about shoes and forks, about enemies and guns, about theft and inventiveness. And she has much to teach him.
Little Johanna does not even recognize her name. She is Cicada, child of an Indian brave and his Kiowa wife. Her tongue will never again master the English “r” sound, and she would rather not try. Bathing and petticoats are foreign too, as are shoes and the concept of personal ownership. The captain has daughters, safely married in New Orleans. They were not like this child.
You will not regret joining this duo in a Texas still trying to come to grips with the aftermath of Emancipation and the freeing of slaves. It is wild country and this long journey will not be an easy one. I was captivated by the relationship between these two and by the author’s descriptions of the country they pass through. Do give it a try. You won’t regret it.