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News of the World    by Paulette Jiles order for
News of the World
by Paulette Jiles
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2016 (2016)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

This lovely novel was a 2016 National Book Award finalist and it is certainly a read you won't soon forget. It's set in Texas five years after the Civil War has ended. It is 1870 and former soldier Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd is one of the two main characters in this tale that charts a journey from Wichita Falls to a ranch near San Antonio.

Since the war concluded, Kidd has supported himself by traveling from town to town offering readings from a number of national and international newspapers. He's discovered that in these backwaters the residents are more than willing to pay to get caught up on the news of the world, no matter how stale the information might be.

Kidd's routine is altered when he is offered a fifty-dollar gold piece to transport Johanna Leonberger, a ten year old girl, to her relatives. After Indians raided her family's ranch and killed her parents, the youngster was taken by the Kiowa and raised as one of their own.

A feral child who considers herself Indian rather than white, Johanna is not delighted to be rescued, and getting her the 400 miles to her aunt and uncle could well be a major challenge.

Although he has some major misgivings about the task, the seventy year old veteran accepts the challenge, because not only is it the right thing to do but he also feels a strange kinship to the wild child. Their journey is filled with adventure and, as you might expect, a tight bond develops along the way between the precocious child and the man who could have been her grandfather.

The story takes an even more unexpected twist than the development of the pair's dependence upon one another when the journey ends and the girl's relatives present a few more problems that must be dealt with.

Rich with local color and historical detail, News of the World is an engaging story with characters you'll find fascinating and well worth getting to know.

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