NEWS OF THE WORLD by Paulette Jiles

I’ve had News Of The World by Paulette Jiles on my shelf for several years (my copy is a 2016 ARC) and finally decided to pick it up to satisfy the book vs movie pairing category of the 2021 EDIWTB Reading Challenge, as the film adaptation of the book came out last December. (I haven’t watched the movie yet, but I will soon.) The book is historical fiction about Captain Jefferson Kidd, an 70 year-old widower living in San Antonio who travels around Reconstruction-era Texas reading the news of the world to audiences from newspapers he collects as he travels. At one of his stops in Wichita Falls, Kidd is approached by a former slave and asked if he would transport a 10 year-old girl who had been captured by Kiowa Indians four years earlier and return her to her aunt and uncle, the last remaining members of her family after her parents and sister were killed by the tribe. News Of The World is about their journey across Texas back to her relatives and the unlikely bond Kidd strikes up with the initially feral girl.

Why I picked it up: I’ve wanted to read News Of The World for a while and my reading challenge gave me a great excuse to do it.

I don’t read that much historical fiction, but I enjoyed News Of The World quite a bit. Jiles slowly develops the relationship between Kidd and the girl he names Johanna, as she learns to trust him and he becomes more and more protective of her. They face dangers and tests along the way, as the roads can be treacherous and Johanna is an easy target for bad men. Kidd, who has made a promise to return Johanna safely to her aunt and uncle, starts to dread the moment when he has to leave her but knows that he must keep his word.

News Of The World is a gentle story, its dangerous moments notwithstanding, and the whole book has an old-fashioned feel to it. I’m looking forward to watching the movie (with Tom Hanks as Kidd) and seeing how well the adaptation retains these characteristics from the book.

I listened to News Of The World on audio, which has is pluses and minuses. On the plus side, the narrator, Grover Gardner, has a deep gravely voice that is perfect for the subject. Also, the audiobook let me avoid the annoying lack of quotation marks in the book. On the minus side, sometimes I found the story a little hard to follow on audio and had to read it over in print to orient myself.

News Of The World was the 49th book of 2021 and satisfies the book vs. movie pairing category of the 2021 EDIWTB Reading Challenge.