Well, I found it.
When my book club chose News of the World by Paulette Jiles, I was less than thrilled. When I previewed it, I didn't like the title, and I didn't like the premise: Texas in 1870? "Ummm, I like historical fiction, buuuut - no thanks." I'm just being honest about my first reaction. I'm happy to report, though, that I believe in always reading the book my club chooses and expanding my tastes in literature.
What I discovered was...something I didn't know I longed for. News of the World is a great story! The tale is about an older gentleman who travels around North Texas reading the news of the world, from various cities' newspapers, from a podium. People pay a dime for admission to hear it. I never thought about this, you see. How DID people Iearn what was going on in other places back in the 1800s? The thought of what he does is interesting in itself, but that isn't the heart of the story.
The conflict that drives the story is that the reader gentleman, Captain Kidd, is asked to return a young, ten-year-old German girl, named Johanna, to her extended family in South Texas. She was captured by the Kiowa Indians four years earlier and does not remember her past. She thinks she is Kiowa, and she does not want to be anywhere except with the Kiowa family she knows. Johanna resents being rescued and doesn't understand what's going on.
Kidd and Johanna are in for a long, arduous journey from Wichita Falls to the San Antonio area of Texas, especially during this turbulent time in Texas history. There are many different dangers this unlikely pair have to endure together, if they hope to reach the girl's relatives and return her safely to her family. Of course,...Johanna also needs to quit running away and trying to return to the Kiowa Indians. And did I mention she doesn't speak English, and Kidd doesn't speak Kiowa? Needless to say, Captain Kidd has his hands full.
There is a nice combination of serious, humorous, and heartwarming moments in this novel. I've marked several passages where I treasure the spirit and the wisdom in which Captain Kidd analyzes people and situations along the trail. He is definitely the kind of character we all wish we could meet in real life.
I don't usually assign an actor to a part in a book, but I couldn't help it with this one. I kept seeing Sam Elliott as Captain Kidd. He would be so perfectly suited to the part. He is equal parts "grandfatherly" and "tough as nails" and just about as Texas as a man comes. And, it's rare for me to say this, but...I would love to see this made into a movie. More people need to be exposed to this story.
I find myself extremely glad I took a chance on this one with my book club. I wasn't the only one who was pleased. Everyone else was less than thrilled at the choice at first, just as I was, but we all came back hugging our books to our chests and giving glowing reviews!
Go ahead, give it try! :)