“… he was drawn back into the stream of being because there was once again a life in his hands. Things mattered.”

Books on Tap met virtually on May 6th to discuss News of the World by Paulette Jiles. 

Set in post Civil War Texas, Capt. Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels from town to town bringing the news from around the world to citizens who are eager, and willing to pay, to listen. In a town near Indian territory, Capt. Kidd becomes bound by duty to return 10 year old Johanna to her biological relatives.  Johanna had been captured and held captive for 4 years by Kiowa Indians after her parents were murdered. Joanna is a rebellious child and the Capt. works hard to re-civilize her and teach her how to speak English. As they journey across Texas, the Captain and Johanna build trust and understanding. They become close and depend on each other throughout the many perils they encounter on their journey.

While often our readers think books could be shortened, in this case folks wanted a longer story with more depth. One reader felt that the re-civilization of little Joanna happened unrealistically and too quickly. In one chapter she can’t speak one word of English and in the next she’s beginning to put together simple sentences. 

There was some discussion of the morality and ethical issues of the novel. Is the biological family always the best for a child?  Not necessarily, we agreed. One of our readers thought the story could have provided more insight on the effect the two cultures had on the child’s re-entry back into white society. 

A reader who had seen the film version of the book, released over the holiday season, shared with us that the film was different from the book in good ways.

Other books mentioned:

True Grit by Charles Portis

Enemy Women by Paulette Jiles

Interview with “News of the World” filmmaker on NPR

News of the World (2020 film version)

Books on Tap will meet again on Thursday, June 3 at 7 pm on Zoom to discuss The Friend by Sigrid Nunez. 

For the link to participate, please contact Krista Farrell (kfarrell@jmrl.org). 

Our upcoming titles: 

The Library Book by Susan Orlean – July 1    

Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry – August 5

In July we need to select books to read for the fall, so begin thinking about titles you would like to have the group read. 

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