The Color of Lightning (P.S. Series)
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The Color of Lightning (P.S. Series)

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by Paulette Jiles
     
 

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In 1863, as the War Between the States creeps inevitably toward its bloody conclusion, former Kentucky slave Britt Johnson ventures west into unknown territory with his wife, Mary, and their three children, searching for a life and a future. But their dreams are abruptly shattered by a brutal Indian raid upon the Johnsons' settlement while Britt is away

Overview

In 1863, as the War Between the States creeps inevitably toward its bloody conclusion, former Kentucky slave Britt Johnson ventures west into unknown territory with his wife, Mary, and their three children, searching for a life and a future. But their dreams are abruptly shattered by a brutal Indian raid upon the Johnsons' settlement while Britt is away establishing a business. Returning to find his friends and neighbors slain or captured, his eldest son dead, his beloved and severely damaged Mary enslaved, and his remaining children absorbed into an alien society that will never relinquish its hold on them, the heartsick freedman vows not to rest until his family is whole again.

A soaring work of the imagination based on oral histories of the post-Civil War years in North Texas, Paulette Jiles's The Color of Lightning is at once an intimate look into the hearts and hopes of tragically flawed human beings and a courageous reexamination of a dark American history.

Editorial Reviews

Historical Novels Review
“Jiles colors... historical facts in prose that captures the imagination, allowing her audience to understand the diverse cultures struggling to coexist in this seemingly harsh land.”
Dallas Morning News
“Paulette Jiles has created a potent, harrowing story about real people with that genuine heroism that makes legendry pale by comparison....Jiles writes with an unerring poet’s touch.”
Booklist
“Jiles never reduces her cast of characters to stock stereotypes, tackling a traumatic and tragic episode in American history with sensitivity and assurance.”
Denver Post
“A remarkably engaging story. . . . Jiles’s description is memorable and evocative.”
San Antonio Express-News
“Jiles is an ardent student of history, and through extensive research is able to reimagine life in post-Civil War Texas and create believable, multi-layered characters with remarkable verisimilitude.”
Texas Monthly
“Stick a thumb into any page of Paulette Jiles’s The Color of Lightning and you’ll pull out a fine prose plum.”
Seattle Times
“Jiles’ spare and melancholy prose is the perfect language for this tale in which survival necessitates brutality.”
New York Times Book Review
“Elegiac in tone, the novel is ful of fierce, austere poetry, as well as hyms to the Texas landscape.”
Washington Post
“[A] meticulously researched and beautifully crafted story . . . this is glorious work.”
Washington Post on THE COLOR OF LIGHTNING
“[A] meticulously researched and beautifully crafted story . . . this is glorious work.”
Seattle Times on THE COLOR OF LIGHTNING
“Jiles’ spare and melancholy prose is the perfect language for this tale in which survival necessitates brutality.”
Booklist on THE COLOR OF LIGHTNING
“Jiles never reduces her cast of characters to stock stereotypes, tackling a traumatic and tragic episode in American history with sensitivity and assurance.”
Texas Monthly on THE COLOR OF LIGHTNING
“Stick a thumb into any page of Paulette Jiles’s The Color of Lightning and you’ll pull out a fine prose plum.”
Denver Post on THE COLOR OF LIGHTNING
“A remarkably engaging story. . . . Jiles’s description is memorable and evocative.”
New York Times Book Review on THE COLOR OF LIGHTNING
“A gripping, deeply relevant book.”
Dallas Morning News on THE COLOR OF LIGHTNING
“Paulette Jiles has created a potent, harrowing story about real people with that genuine heroism that makes legendry pale by comparison....Jiles writes with an unerring poet’s touch.”
Publishers Weekly

The author of Stormy Weather and Enemy Women returns with a lively exploration of revenge, dedication and betrayal set mainly in Kentucky and Texas near the end of the Civil War. Britt Johnson is a free black man traveling with a larger band of white settlers in search of a better life for his wife, Mary, and their children, despite the many perils of the journey itself. After a war party of 700 Comanche and Kiowa scalp, rape and murder many of the whites, Mary and her children get separated from Britt and become the property of a Native named Gonkon. Britt must wait through the winter before he can set out to rescue and reclaim his wife and children, only to discover that not only does he not have enough money to bargain with the Indians but also that his own family's fate has as much to do with land disputes and treaties as it does with his determination to get revenge. Jiles writes like she owns the frontier, and in this multifaceted, riveting and full of danger novel, she does. (Apr.)

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Library Journal

As the Civil War winds down, freed slave Britt Johnson moves his wife and three children to Young County, TX. He dreams of starting a freight business, and his wife wants to teach school. But when the Comanche and Kiowa come raiding, Britt is not there to defend his family; his oldest son is killed, and the rest of his family and neighbors are taken captive. Britt spends a long winter plotting how to rescue them. Samuel Hammond, a Quaker man from Philadelphia, is sent to the region to be the new Indian Agent. He holds high ideals about nonviolence and teaching the Indians an agrarian lifestyle. Riveting suspense builds as Britt journeys north toward Indian country and encounters many Indian captives who do not want to be re-Anglicized. Using as her basis true histories of the Johnson family and others, Jiles (Stormy Weather) paints a stirring, panoramic tale of the young, troubled state of Texas. Highly recommended for historical fiction fans and readers who enjoy original Westerns. [Prepub Alert, LJ12/08.]
—Keddy Ann Outlaw

Kirkus Reviews
A novel of the Old West, based on the true story of Britt Johnson, a freed slave whose wife and family were stolen by Indians but eventually recovered. Most of Johnson's narrative has been passed down through oral history, but Jiles (Stormy Weather, 2007, etc.) fills in the gaps more than adequately. One day while Johnson is away getting supplies (and, sadly, after a nasty spat with his wife), his wife and two children are abducted by Kiowa-Comanche along with an older neighbor and her grandchildren. The Indians brutalize the women, but the children-especially the Johnson's ten-year-old son Jube-begin to adapt to life on the plains. The narrative divides itself between Johnson's search for his family and his family's exposure to Indian life, and then divides again with the introduction of Samuel Hammond, a Quaker who, as a representative of the post-Civil War (and radically revamped) Office of Indian Affairs, is assigned the task of attempting to "civilize" the Comanche-Kiowa and turn a nomadic and warrior culture toward farming. Hammond is appalled at the number of abductions, and even more repelled to discover that some of the younger abductees have no desire to return to their previous lives. Part of the tension involves Hammond's growing discontent with Indian culture-he finds himself conflicted because, as a Quaker friend has written him, it is "our professed desire [as Quakers] to treat the Red Man as our brother and as a being deeply wronged over the centuries that we have inhabited this continent." Meanwhile, Johnson, in conjunction with his Comanche friend Tissoyo, succeeds in ransoming his wife and children, though he discovers that his wife has been psychologically scarred aswell as physically injured. During her fragile recovery Johnson starts a freighting company, carrying goods from various settlements to frontier forts through dangerous territory. A rousing, character-driven tale.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061690457
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
06/15/2010
Series:
P.S. Series
Pages:
349
Sales rank:
256,341
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

Paulette Jiles is a poet and the author of Cousins, a memoir, and the bestselling novels Enemy Women, Stormy Weather, and The Color of Lightning. She lives on a ranch near San Antonio, Texas.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Southwest Texas
Place of Birth:
Salem, Missouri
Education:
B.A. in Romance Languages, University of Missouri

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Color of Lightning 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
ReviewYourBook.com More than 1 year ago
The setting is post Civil War, 1860s. The plot is based on actual events. This is the true story on Britt Johnson?s courageous search for his family. Looking for a new beginning former slave, Britt Johnson, his wife Mary and their family left Kentucky for Texas. They had no idea the terror that waited for them. Britt left the house angry at Mary. He returned to find his oldest son murdered and his wife and other two children missing. Johnson set out to find his family. He would not give up until he could bring them home. Paulette Jiles is an incredible author. She successfully paints a word picture of the Camanche and Kowa plight and well as the fate of the innocents captured. Jiles never spares the reader the pain of the era. Her words are graphic and, at times, brutal. The hero in this true story is Britt Johnson, a man that would not give up the search for his family. Johnson inspired the movie The Searchers. The Color of Lightning is beautifully written and a book you will want to put at the top of your must-read list.
ahk5678 More than 1 year ago
This book is very well written, continually keeping me eager to know what happens next. Some of the action is disturbing, yet likely accurate. The book, based on a true story, conveys a feel for that turbulent period of time and place in American history. I particularly appreciate the point made in the book that although cruelty is unacceptable on the part of both Native Americans and settlers, and that people on both sides are confronted with complicated dilemmas, it was the injustice perpetrated by the "new" Americans that set the conflict in motion.
sparky2 More than 1 year ago
It is so sad what we did to the Indians.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absolutely love Paulette Jiles. All her books are amazing. Her characters, her story line, her visual imagery. I can't say enough. You do need to like historical fiction, however.
brf1948 More than 1 year ago
My local library does not carry Paulette Jiles on their shelves. I found her quite by chance, when I was researching Wallace Stegner. I will be donating her books to the local library, for sure. The Color of Lightning takes place in the High Plains Desert and Texas Hill Country just at and after the end of the Civil War. Southerners were moving on, out of the chaos of reconstruction, families re-united were looking for a place to start over. This book follows the travels and travails of two families - a radically religious man, Moses Johnson, and his family, and the family of his slave, Brett Johnson. as they travelled from Burkett's Station, Kentucky, to the wide open west. Manumission papers were drawn up and signed as they passed through the boothill of Illinois so they all crossed the Mississippi River at Little Egypt as free United States citizens, and went to Texas. Unless you have spent time in the west, it is hard to picture the lives of white settlers here as so vulnerable and dangerous just a hundred fifty years ago. It is a good thing, to be reminded of just how far we have come, and often a hard thing to realize just how prejudiced and arrogant we were. But not an easy read. It is one I will keep on my shelf, and read again. All the things that make the high plains desert home to me are expressed so beautifully in Paulette Jiles story, and all the things that make us better people laid out for all to see.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A really good read. If you like history, you'll appreciate this story. It's interesting and well written.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I usually would not write to an author but this woman is exceptional. I could not put the book down - it was written in a way that kept me interessted as you began to live along with the characters during the really difficult times after and during the civil war. You get a good perspective of the difference in our races and the struggles to survive. Thank you Ms.Jiles for an outstanding book. I am anxious to read more of your writings.I strongly recommend this book.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I reread Jiles' "Enemy Women" about once a year, and this novel did not disappoint. Jiles is a master storyteller, this novel is rich in character and historical accuracy.
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Frontier history in its raw and terrible beauty, crafted in exquisite language by a talented novelist. There are some parts at the beginning (mostly the introduction of Samuel, the Quaker) that seem like they were written by a different writer, rather lengthy, tedious and unnecessary. The main story of Britt and the Indians will grab you ,though, and not let you go.
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A good account of the plight of the indians and their fight to hold on to their land. Moves fast and is well written.
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