News of the World, by Paulette Jiles

In today’s world, we get our “news of the world” instantly, and literally, at the touch of our fingers—on computers, iPads, iPhones, TVs, car radios, and if you still read them, newspapers.

But a century before all that sophisticated, fun and sometimes overwhelming communications technology worked its way into our modern world, citizens were hungry for news of their states and of the world.

Enter Captain Jefferson Kidd, a grizzled elderly widower who has lived through three wars and  fought in two of them. He made his living in Texas as a printer until he lost his business during the War Between the States.  In 1870, at the age of 71, the Captain finds a new way to make a living and enjoy the freedom of the road. He travels from town to town and state to state, giving live readings from newspapers to audiences who are hungry for news of the world and who are willing to pay 20 cents to have him read it to them.

He enjoys his rootless, solitary existence. Then in Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a fiesty, 9-year-old orphan girl to her family. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed her parents and sister, but spared the little girl and raised her as one of their own. She was recently rescued by the U.S. Army. Now the grizzled old man and the lost little girl both have to learn to take care of each other and find their place in the world. Joanna tries to escape every way and every chance she gets, including throwing her shoes away. But slowly they begin to form a bond during their 400-mile journey, and begin to trust each other.

Jiles is a wonderful writer, telling an imaginative story. Her descriptions make both characters and their environment alive and believable. I loved every creative twist and turn of this book and couldn’t wait to see what happened to the Captain and Johanna.

— Gail Stilwill

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