The Color of Lightning (P.S. Series)

( 31 )

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 ...

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The Color of Lightning

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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.

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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.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061690457
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/15/2010
  • Series: P.S. Series
  • Pages: 349
  • Sales rank: 612,834
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Paulette Jiles

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.

Biography

Poet, memoirist, and novelist Paulette Jiles was born and raised in the Missouri Ozarks and moved to Canada in 1969 after graduating with a degree in Romance languages from the University of Missouri at Kansas City. She spent eight years as a journalist in Canada, before turning to writing poetry. In 1984, she won the Governor General's Award (Canada's highest literary honor) for Celestial Navigation, a collection of poems lauded by the Toronto Star as "...fiercely interior and ironic, with images that can mow the reader down."

In 1992, Jiles published Cousins, a beguiling memoir that interweaves adventure and romance into a search for her family roots. Ten years later, she made her fiction debut with Enemy Women (2002), the survival story of an 18-year-old woman caged with the criminally insane in a St. Louis prison during the Civil War. Janet Maslin raved in The New York Times, "This is a book with backbone, written with tough, haunting eloquence by an author determined to capture the immediacy of he heroine's wartime odyssey." The book won the Willa Literary Award for Historical Fiction (U.S.) and the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize (Canada).

In her second novel, 2007's Stormy Weather, Jiles mined another rich trove of American history. Set in Texas oil country during the Great Depression, the story traces the lives of four women, a widow and her three daughters, as they struggle to hold farm and family together in a hardscrabble world of dust storms, despair, and deprivation. In its review, The Washington Post praised the author's lyrical prose, citing descriptions that "crackle with excitement." Stormy Weather became the fourth selection in the Barnes & Noble Recommends program.

A dual citizen of the United States and Canada, Jiles currently lives on a ranch near San Antonio, Texas.

Good To Know

Some interesting outtakes from our interview with Jiles:

"When I lived in Nelson, British Columbia, there were three or four of us women who were struggling writers; we were very poor and we had a great deal of fun. We shared writing and money and wine. Woody (Caroline Woodward) had a great, huge Volkswagen bus -- green -- named Greena Garbo. When any of us managed to publish something there were celebrations. It was a wonderful time. They always managed to show up at my place just when I'd baked bread. One time Meagan and Joanie arrived to share with me a horrible dinner they had made of cracked wheat and onions -- we were actually all short of food. I had just made lasagna -- and they ate all of my lasagna and left me with that vile dish of groats and onions. And then we all got married and went in different directions."

"I have a small ranch that keeps me busy -- two horses, a donkey, a cat, a dog, fences, a pasture -- I and spend lots of time preventing erosion, clearing cedar, etc."

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    1. Hometown:
      Southwest Texas
    1. Education:
      B.A. in Romance Languages, University of Missouri

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 31 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 31 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 22, 2009

    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.

    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.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Couldn't put it down

    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.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 24, 2011

    Do your homework

    Could have been a good book. But author should be ashamed for not doing her homework. Weatherford, Texas is not in Young County Texas, in fact Young County is not even a surrounding County. Weatherford, Texas is in Parker County. There is no Dry Fork of the Trinity River and you cannot see the Brazos River from anywhere in Weatherford, TX. The Brazos is 17 miles west of Weatherford. Geographical locations in a book should at least be accurate, it does not take much to check locales. And to make it even worse she list her hometown as Southwest, TX. Shame on you Ms.Jiles. and next time do your homework.

    1 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 19, 2009

    Historical Adventure that's Unforgettable

    While a work of fiction based on many real characters and events, THE COLOR OF LIGHTNING gives a good view of faulty government intervention, the hardships of frontier life and the philosphies of Native Americans before total domination by Christian Europeans. While the book focuses on the warring tribes(Kiowa and Commanche)the reader is given a peek at the more "civilized" side of Native American life by showing treatment of captives as well as tribal members after a state of acceptance has been achieved.
    The Color of Ligtning, when combined with Cheyenne Autumn (the book, not the watered down movie)provides, in my opinion, an excellent opportunity for educational entertainment.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2009

    AWESOME

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2014

    Based on True Events

    A really good read. If you like history, you'll appreciate this story. It's interesting and well written.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 15, 2013

    I usually would not write to an author but this woman is excepti

    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

    Posted October 6, 2013

    Another high-caliber novel from Jiles

    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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  • Posted October 1, 2013

    Excellent story.

    It is so sad what we did to the Indians.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2013

    Fascinating

    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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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2013

    Very good

    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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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2013

    Sky

    Watches her phone)

    0 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 9, 2009

    A Pretty Good Historical Novel

    The basis for this book comes from the history of Texas during the post civil war time. This book enlightened me with new knowledge of pioneer life, Indian tribes, and personal tragedy. At times, the plot was not always tied together and there definitely were loose ends. A good read if you like historical fiction. Don't expect a thrilling, suspenseful read or one with romance and intrigue. It is simply what it is--an piece of history put into a fictional account that tells a story.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2011

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    Posted September 7, 2013

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    Posted October 25, 2013

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    Posted December 21, 2009

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    Posted January 10, 2014

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    Posted February 16, 2011

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    Posted August 4, 2010

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 31 Customer Reviews

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