News of the World
This book is a gem. Set in the aftermath of the Civil War, it tells of a man in his 70’s who makes his living traveling through northern Texas bringing news of the world, through live newspaper readings, to people who are hungry for escape. Early in the book, he agrees to take a 10-year-old orphan girl from Wichita Falls to relatives in San Antonio. The girl has lived the last four years as a Kiowa captive before being recovered by the US Cavalry. She knows nothing of her earlier existence, but thinks, talks, and acts like a Kiowa child.
Man and girl travel together over 400 miles of rough terrain, with many a danger, no common language but much angst. Little by little, though, they bond – which is all I’ll say, lest I give away too much of the plot.
To call News of the World a period piece is to short-change it. Yes, it captures Texas of the 1870’s in exquisite detail. But the human elements are just as finely painted. Truly, I am in awe of Paulette Jiles for being in equal measure a master of historical detail, plot development, and human psychology.
This is a short book, both in print and audible form. I did listen to it, and while the reader wasn’t as crucial to the story as, say, the reader of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, he was plenty good.
I repeat. This book is a gem. What more can I say?