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News of the World

News of the World

4.7 13
by Paulette Jiles

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National Book Award Finalist—Fiction

It is 1870 and Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence.

In Wichita Falls, he


National Book Award Finalist—Fiction

It is 1870 and Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence.

In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna’s parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the ten-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows.

Their 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Johanna has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act “civilized.” Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forging a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land.

Arriving in San Antonio, the reunion is neither happy nor welcome. The captain must hand Johanna over to an aunt and uncle she does not remember—strangers who regard her as an unwanted burden. A respectable man, Captain Kidd is faced with a terrible choice: abandon the girl to her fate or become—in the eyes of the law—a kidnapper himself. Exquisitely rendered and morally complex, News of the World is a brilliant work of historical fiction that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble Review Interview with Paulette Jiles

In the National Book Award finalist News of the World, elderly, genteel Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a former soldier and onetime printer, makes his living traveling through post–Civil War Texas with a sheaf of newspapers, reading for dimes to audiences hungry for outside news.

The former Johanna Leonberger, a ten-year-old German girl taken captive by the Kiowa in a brutal raid, is now by all measures Kiowa herself. She's traded back for four blankets and a set of silver only when the encroaching U.S. Army threatens violence if all captives are not returned. When an aunt and uncle offer a $50 gold piece for Johanna's safe return, Captain Kidd reluctantly takes the job.

Their uneasy alliance is also a portrait of the American West -- a singular creation, born of a cataclysm. It's familiar territory for Jiles, whose novel The Color of Lightning tells the story of real-life cowboy and Texas freighter Britt Johnson, the former slave who rescued his own family from the Kiowa, then went on to retrieve other captives. Johnson makes a brief appearance in the novel -- an old friend, he's the one who asks Kidd to take the job.

I spoke with Paulette Jiles about Britt Johnson's legacy, researching antique rifles on YouTube, and quotation marks in British novels. --Lizzie Skurnick

The Barnes & Noble Review: I'm fascinated by the notion that children who are taken captive turn into Indians. What are your thoughts about how the changeover occurred?

Paulette Jiles: Did you read Scott Zesch's The Captured? What he pointed out is that many of these captives were really lost, because by the time they grew up and matured, especially the men, into warriors, the Comanche were confined to the reservation, so that whole wonderful, free life of chasing the buffalo was finished.

BNR: Where did you learn the Kiowa songs -- for instance, the Kiowa song Johanna sings when she walks alongside the wagon?

PJ: There's a wonderful book called Remember We Are Kiowa, which included many phrases, many stories, including the one about the cicada singing. And on the International Language Institutes site, they have sample tapes from different languages all over the world. I thought, "Oh, can I just get lucky here?"

BNR: In Johanna's case, she goes from hostile to having a sense of humor.

PJ: You have to remember that gunfight scene is seminal. She's a fighter herself, and the two of them bond, so she's more willing to relearn Western, civilized ways.

BNR: And to not scalp. Speaking of which, how did you research the guns in that scene?

PJ: I live out in the country by myself, and I have an old Mossberg .20 gauge bolt action. I keep it for varmints. That's why I gave the Captain a .20 gauge. I'm not even sure they had a bolt action in 1870. I think it would have been sort of a lever, then you load the . . . you know what I am talking about?

BNR: You might as well be speaking Kiowa.

PJ: Have I lost you? I looked up "Antique 20 gauge shotgun" on YouTube. One of the videos was a bunch of young guys out in a dump, shooting at old televisions and microwaves, seeing what kinds of things they could stuff down into a .20 gauge shell. They just blew this microwave apart with frozen gummy bears. And one of them said, "A U.S. dime is the only coin that will fit into a .20 gauge shell."

BNR: I am fascinated on how much research you did on the Internet with this. Was the bulk of your research on the Internet?

PJ: With the exception of the captive narratives.

BNR: I pictured you'd have a library of books for each work.

PJ: You look for what you need. So when [Kidd] buys a wagon to go south, he's been carrying a pack pony with him, but he can't do that with a small girl, so he has to get a wagon. I don't want a covered wagon, first of all because it would be too large, and he would need a four-horse team. So I went through images and found a little excursion wagon.

BNR: I had never heard of the job of a newsreader. How did you choose that role for him?

PJ: The husband of a friend mentioned that his great- grandfather was a newsreader. I put him into The Color of Lightning, but he was too good a character to just leave, and I thought, this person deserves a book to himself.

BNR: That brings us to Britt Johnson. Can you tell me about how you came across him?

PJ: I was considering a sequel to Enemy Women, and I came across the famous Elm Creek Raid of 1863, involving Britt Johnson. He was a true hero and very brave. He rescued his wife and two children, and no one knows how he did it. Apparently they used his story as the basis for The Searchers, only they changed him to a white man, and changed his wife, daughter, and son to a niece.

BNR: What's the difference between poetry and prose for you, as a writer? PJ: The basic unit of poetry is a phrase, and the basic unit of prose is supposed to be a sentence. So I had a long training in sounds, and searching out exactly the right word, and not being content with a word that was halfway okay. Nor could I be content with an awkward rhythm.

BNR: There's a technical question I like to ask authors of westerns. Often, you don't use quotation marks around dialogue. Is that a deliberate choice?

PJ: In older British novels, they use dash lines. I really like that a lot. And when I picked up Cormac McCarthy, who simply threw them away, I thought, "That's so daring." So I did that for Enemy Women. I received so many complaints. I put them back in for Color of Lightning, chicken that I am. Now I'm reading some of the reviews on Goodreads, complaining about it. So I went to Cormac McCarthy, The Road, All the Pretty Horses. Not one complaint.

BNR: I'm not sure if you realize, but this book is a heart- stopping experience. I was going to kill you if something bad happened to Johanna.

PJ: You were going to come to Utopia and find me?

BNR: Exactly. Because obviously, The Color of Lightning does not have a happy ending.

PJ: I had a friend here in Utopia who told me, "Please, please don't tell me Britt gets killed.” Sorry. I can't help it. It was a real person.

BNR: Was it a choice to make News of the World such a happy book?

PJ: The fashion has been in literary fiction for the depressing ending, and for more or less passive characters who have terrible things happen to them. The ending is sort of out of defiance. Kidd is a strong character and very intelligent. He was a man of honor. He was going to help her and protect her no matter what. So why not have a happy ending? Is there a law?

--December 9, 2016
The New York Times - Janet Maslin
Paulette Jiles was a poet before she became a novelist. And it certainly shows. Her new novel, the 2016 National Book Award nominee News of the World, has invited comparisons with both Charles Portis's True Grit…and John Ford's film The Searchers…But it's more like Ms. Jiles's own Enemy Women, an exquisitely written Civil War epic about a woman's long march to find her lover, or any fiction by Ron Rash, another poet who chooses each word with expert precision. Like Mr. Rash, Ms. Jiles writes books that bring the natural world to life and are also agonizingly eventful…News of the World is a narrow but exquisite book about the joys of freedom…the discovery of unexpected, proprietary love between two people who have never experienced anything like it; pure adventure in the wilds of an untamed Texas; and the reconciling of vastly different cultures…That's a lot to pack into a short (213 pages), vigorous volume, but Ms. Jiles is capable of saying a lot in few words.
The New York Times Book Review - Suzanne Berne
As one might expect, the old man is tough but the little girl is tougher; their road is hard and their enemies bad; they forge a kinship based on mutual respect as they contend with ambushes, shootouts, brawls, perilous river crossings and good-hearted widow ladies. At every turn, this story square-dances with cliché, and at every turn it's thrilling. Jiles…has recognized that the best stories are the known ones, as long as they're told entrancingly and grow ever stranger as they roll on through familiar territory. Mostly she manages this small miracle by keeping her story quietly ironic and exquisitely particular…at scarcely 200 pages, this exhilarating novel…travels through its marvelous terrain so quickly that one is shocked, almost stricken, to reach the end. So do what I did: Read it again.
Publishers Weekly
Jiles delivers a taut, evocative story of post–Civil War Texas in this riveting drama of a redeemed captive of the Kiowa tribe. Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, an elderly widower, earns his living traveling around, reading news stories to gatherings of townspeople. While reading in Wichita Falls one evening in the winter of 1870, he sees an old acquaintance. Britt Johnson, the main character in Jiles’s The Color of Lightning, has just come through Indian Country with his crew. The men are returning a 10-year-old girl to her aunt and uncle in Castroville after she spent four years with the Kiowa. A free black man, Britt is reluctant to have a white child in his custody. He persuades the Captain to escort young Johanna on the remainder of the three-week journey. The Captain, who has grown daughters of his own, at first feels sorry for the girl. Johanna considers herself Kiowa; she chafes at wearing shoes and a dress, struggles to pronounce American words. Challenges and dangers confront the two during their journey, and they become attached. Jiles unfolds the stories of the Captain and Johanna, past and present, with the smooth assuredness of a burnished fireside tale, demonstrating that she is a master of the western. Agent: Liz Darhansoff, Darhansoff & Verrill. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Capt. Jefferson Kyle Kidd, an army veteran, makes his living in 1870 as a "reader" who travels around north Texas reading from various newspapers to a dime-a-head audience. A septuagenarian, he undertakes a 400-mile odyssey from Wichita Falls, TX, to San Antonio with a reluctant Johanna Leonberger, who has no memory of her life before she was kidnapped by the Kiowa Indians. Along the way, the ten-year-old warms up to the widowed captain as they face a number of perilous encounters. After venturing away from historical fiction to try her hand at dystopian fiction in Lighthouse Island, Canadian American author Jiles returns to mining lush Texas history and resurrecting some of the characters from 2009's The Color of Lightening in this tale. VERDICT This Western is not to be missed by Jiles's fans and lovers of Texan historical fiction. The final chapter's solid resolution will satisfy those who like to know what ultimately becomes of beloved characters. [See Prepub Alert, 9/21/15.]—Wendy W. Paige, Shelby Cty. P.L., Morristown, IN
School Library Journal
Kidd, a retired Civil War captain, didn't have babysitting on his mind when he drifted into town, but he ends up escorting a 10-year-old to her family for a $50 gold piece. Johanna was captured by the Kiowa after her German immigrant parents were attacked and killed, and now the unlikely duo must travel through rough Texas country together. Capt. Kidd raised money by reading newspapers to townspeople (hence the title) and tries to "civilize" Johanna, all while the two of them fight off raiders and thieves of all types. As the journey continues, the pair become closer, and when they finally arrive in San Antonio, Capt. Kidd must make the hardest decision of his life. A National Book Award finalist for fiction, this slim Western novel set in crooked Reconstruction Texas is simultaneously brief and expansive. The author is a poet, and the book, with its carefully turned phrases, is reminiscent of Kent Myers's Alex Award—winning The Work of Wolves. VERDICT The feel good ending will bring tears to the hardest of readers, and the overall tone will speak to teens who want a short, uplifting read.—Sarah Hill, Lake Land College, Mattoon, IL
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2016-01-20
In post-Civil War Texas, a 10-year-old girl makes an odyssey back to her aunt and uncle's home after living with the Kiowa warriors who had killed her parents four years earlier. Johanna Leonberger remembers almost nothing of her first 6 years, when she lived with her parents. Instead, her memory extends only as far as her Kiowa family—she speaks no English and by white standards is uncivilized. Tired of being harassed by the cavalry, the Kiowa sell her back to an Indian agent for "fifteen Hudson's Bay four-stripe blankets and a set of silver dinnerware." Enter Capt. Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a 70-year-old veteran of two wars and, in 1870, when the novel takes place, a professional reader—he travels through Texas giving public readings from newspapers to an audience hungry for events of the world. At first reluctant to take her the 400 miles to the town near San Antonio where her aunt and uncle live, he soon realizes his itinerant life makes him the most plausible person for the job—and he also knows it's the right thing to do. He buys a wagon, and they start their journey, much to the reluctance and outrage of the undomesticated Johanna; but a relationship soon begins to develop between the two. Jiles makes the narrative compelling by unsentimentally constructing a bond based at least in part on a mutual need for survival, but slowly and delicately, Johanna and Kidd begin to respect as well as need one another. What cements their alliance is facing many obstacles along the way, including an unmerciful landscape; a lack of weapons; and a vicious cowboy and his companions, who want to kill Kidd and use the girl for their own foul purposes. As one might expect, Kidd and Johanna eventually develop a deep and affectionate relationship; when they arrive at the Leonbergers, the captain must make a difficult choice about whether to leave the girl there or hold onto her himself. Lyrical and affecting, the novel succeeds in skirting clichés through its empathy and through the depth of its major characters.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.10(d)


Meet the Author

Paulette Jiles is a poet, memoirist, and bestselling novelist. Her books include Cousins, a memoir; and the novels Enemy Women; Stormy Weather; The Color of Lightning; and Lighthouse Island. She lives on a ranch near San Antonio, Texas.

Brief Biography

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

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News of the World 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A rich, vivid tale that is perfectly paced. I did not want to put it down. You know a novel is special when you are tearful at the end because of the plot and because your time with these characters had to end. I highly recommend.
Anonymous 10 months ago
Got this ebook because it was inexpensive and was just wanting something to read. Turned out to be well written and easy to reccomend to other readers. Its a simple story with strong characters. Made me cry and laugh. Buying all of this authors works.
Anonymous 12 months ago
Loved this book! Great story and characters
Anonymous 12 months ago
Such a well written novel
Anonymous 10 months ago
Loved it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Highly recommended. Amazing and fascinating story of a unique adventure in Texas after the Civil War. The novel includes a reader of the news, a recused child, bandits, gun fights, danger, cruelty, loving relationships, dimes, and more. Excellent novel that deserves lots of awards. This novel deserves an A+++++++
caroldh4 More than 1 year ago
News of the World is by Paulette Jiles. This book was generously provided to me in exchange for an honest review by Harper Collins Publishers. I want to admit up front that I don’t usually read historical fiction. This book was definitely outside of the norm for me. It has been receiving high ratings from other readers so I decided to give it a try. Although at times I could find myself fading when there was a lot of history, the characters won my heart. Captain Jefferson Kidd is seventy one years old. He lost his wife, has raised two daughters, fought in several wars. It is 1870, a few years after the end of the Civil War and the country is still in turmoil. The Captain travels the country and for a price of ten cents each, he rents out large rooms and reads the news to anyone wanting to listen. This is how he makes his living. It is at one of his readings that an acquaintance of his asks for his help. He has a little ten year old girl that was taken by the Kiowa when she was six. He has rescued her but the little girl remembers nothing of her life before. In her mind she is a Kiowa. The little girl needs to be returned to her surviving family, an Aunt and Uncle. The trip would take three weeks and would be dangerous. He will pay the Captain $50 to deliver the girl. The Captain is hesitant to take on such a huge responsibility. It is evident that the girl is wild. But he does accept the job. Along the journey his gentle way with her slowly settles her and they grow attached. They encounter danger and share joy. It was shocking to me the things that people of that time had to worry about, the danger they had to endure to survive. It is so foreign to anything we know now. But one thing is the same and that is that there are good people and there are bad people. There are people with blackness in their hearts who seek little ten year old girls for vile reasons. And little Johanna is lucky enough to have the Captain to protect her. Together they are a force to be reckoned with. As their bond strengthens, the idea of returning her to her relatives becomes more and more painful. But this is what he was paid to do, it is the right thing to do, isn’t it? I did enjoy this book, it was a quick read. I loved the ending. If you enjoy historical fiction then you will most likely love this.
Anonymous 6 months ago
This novel is wonderful,suspense and extremely interesting if history of indian,cowboys and travel throughout Indian territory in the 18 7s interests you. The culture alone is fascinatinf. I loved it and hated for it to en?!
Anonymous 7 months ago
Tension and tragedy in Texas .....bound in a book by a remarkable writer. Get ready for tears
Anonymous 8 months ago
The style of writing lends itself to the pace of the trip our heroes are on. The tension builds not only due to the perils they face but from their budding kinship. Truly beautiful. It is so obvious the author is a poet skilled with words and emotion.
nfmgirl 12 months ago
Captain Kidd is in his "golden years", left a widower with two grown daughters and grandchildren. He's a bit restless, still on the road and not quite ready to settle just yet. He travels Texas offering readings of the news. People pay to hear him recite the news of the country and the world at large for various reasons-- some just like the social aspect of gathering with a group to hear the news, some are illiterate and incapable of reading the news themselves. Whatever their own personal reason, people gather for a dime a piece to hear Captain Kidd read. While Captain is in Wichita Falls, he is approached with the request that he take a young captive and return her to her family. Young Johanna was taken captive at the age of six by the Kiowa after they had killed her parents and little sister, and adopted by a Kiowa couple. She was raised by Turning Water and Three Spotted as their own for four years, until the Kiowa decided that it was too dangerous for them to keep a captive white girl when there are soldiers always looking for a reason to battle. So she was traded back to the whites at the age of ten, finding herself surrounded by strangers she doesn't know or understand, frightened and confused and yearning to return to the only family she knows. The Captain agrees to transport her back to her family, and so begins their three-week journey to San Antonio. Along the way they fight battles, both literal and figurative, with small victories occurring at every turn. Every smile and every English word is a victory, but as time goes on every step of the hoof and turn of the wagon wheel brings them closer to separation. When trying to think of how this book made me feel, the word that came to mind was "wistful". Yes, "wistful", yearning, longing. You feel for this little girl who was ripped from the only family she seems to remember, the only life she knows, and given to a stranger to return her to people she doesn't know and info forced assimilation. You feel for the Captain, separated from his family who are living lives of their own, he himself alone in the world. The author's writing is a bit like the wagon journey they are on-- slow, steady, and gets the story where it's going. It's not overly laden with flourish, nor overly emotional or descriptive, yet effective. Her characters are well formed and relatable. My final word: This is one of those sweet and gentle reads, and at 200 pages, it's a fast read as well. There are moments of tragedy and heartbreak, but for the most part it is a sweet story as this old man wandering at the end of his life falls in with a young girl who is lost and seeking the nomadic yet grounded life she has known. The two of them turn out to be quite well-suited for one another, and the Captain will become more to this little girl than anyone ever expected. This is a good rainy-day read, to sit curled up with on a gray and overcast rainy or snowy day.
Mirella More than 1 year ago
By 1870, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd spent his entire life in battle against the Indians and the Civil War. He is a widower and has left his two daughters in the south. He has become a loner and a wanderer, moving from one Texas town to the next. He discovers he can earn his way by reading stories from newspapers to folk he encounters. It won't make him rich, but he enjoys doing it. His life is turned upside down when he is hired to deliver a young ten year old that was captured by Indians four years prior and deliver her back to her family. But the child is unhappy to be pulled away from her Indian family and can no longer speak English or German. Basically, she has completely forgotten everything about the white world, from prayers to cutlery, clothing and food. Instead, she has become strong and able to make fire and cook. Most of all, she wants to return to her tribe who sold her to white settlers and who ultimately hired Kidd to take her back to her aunt and uncle. And so begins a dangerous journey, fraught with perilous people, weather, and landscape. It is this journey that draws love for the child out of Kidd's heart. This is a story of love and perseverance, and the ability to endure. Heart-wrenching, soul-stirring, and highly emotive, this book is a wonderful read. News Of The World has been selected as a National Book Award finalist. And it deserves that honor. My only comment is to forewarn readers that the author uses no quotation marks throughout the book, and this made for some uneasy reading on my part as I continually had to re-read lines and paragraphs to comprehend that it was dialogue rather than narrative. Other than that, this book was perfection!
Twink More than 1 year ago
Paulette Jiles' latest novel is News of the World. It's also a National Book Award finalist. 1870. Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, 71 years old, earns his living travelling through Texas, reading newspaper articles to audiences in small towns. It is in one of those small towns that his friend Britt approaches him and asks him to deliver something for him. Actually it's a someone. A ten year old girl, kidnapped by the Kiowas when she was six. The family paid Britt to rescue her and deliver her back to her last living relatives. And because its the right thing to do, Kidd agrees. But Johanna has no memory of her life before the Kiowa, speaks no English and has no idea why she has been taken from her Kiowa family. It's a 400 mile trip through rough and dangerous country for an old man and a child..... Oh, my......this was such an amazing read on so many levels. Kidd is a great lead - intelligent, moral, brave, determined and steadfast. But also with an eye on the world beyond his scope. Throughout the narrative we learn more about his past and the roads he chose to take in his seventy one years. His life has been rich and full, filled with both good and bad. (Kidd is based on an actual historical figure who was a reader in Texas in the 1870's) We get short glimpses into Johanna's mind and thinking throughout the trip - her take on what is happening. She too is a strong character with the same qualities as Kidd - brave and determined. Think what she has lived through in her short ten years. But it is the burgeoning relationship between the two that had me unable to put the book down. Over the 400 miles, they face much - and share much. The relationship is built without straying into saccharine over-sentimentality. Every uncertain situation on the trip had me perched on the edge of my seat, hoping that he and Johanna make it through. But, I wondered, what would happen if they reached the end? And for answers to that question, you're going to have to pick up the book. I heartily recommend that you do. Historical fiction fascinates me. I often think that I was born into the wrong century. Jiles brings her time and setting to life with detailed description - the wagon, meals, dusty roads and small settlements, recreating the political and racial tension of the time and so much more. Jiles employs a 'no punctuation' style for her book. It only took a page or two to get used to it. And I think it was the perfect style for this book - it matches the pared down, no frills tone and tenor of both the time period and their journey. I'm always on the lookout as I read for the meaning behind the title of a book. In this case it's multi-faceted. Kidd delivers the news of the world in his reading rounds. But also the idea that we are born with a message - one that we will never know the contents of until it is delivered to the pearly gates. I finished News of the World in one evening. And thought about it long after the final page. And wondered why I haven't read Paulette Jiles before. That will be changing - I'm going to look up her backlist. News of the World - and the map that came with it - has earned a permanent place on my bookshelf.