Friday, July 21, 2017

Michelle's Musings


Post-Civil War Texas has always been of great interest to me.  It was a time of chaos with an abundance of untamed and rugged land.  Texas was in transition between Reconstruction and the Progressive Era. While cotton, cattle, and railroads were the economic future of the state, agriculture was still dominating the economy at this time.

Most of the people in the state were illiterate, but they were hungry for news.  Men made their living traveling from town to town giving readings from the latest newspapers so the isolated towns on the Texas frontier were kept up to date on domestic and foreign events.  Such is the background for my recommendation for a great read, News of the World by Paulette Jiles.

Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd was one of those men who roamed the frontier reading newspapers to Texas citizens.  While in Wichita Falls, he is asked to return a young girl, captured by the Indians, to her relatives near San Antonio.  She is a former captive who still considers herself an Indian.  Thus begins an adventure that will shape both of their lives forever.  This is a story of honor and courage and these two things are in the possession of these two main characters.  The minor characters are rich in background and accurate to the time period in Texas.

Paulette Jiles got her inspiration from the real Captain Kidd who was a relative of one of her riding friends.  When she heard her friend discuss her great-great-grandfather, she knew this was a great story.  The book has been compared to Charles Portis’s “True Grit” and to John Ford’s film “The Searchers” because one involves a girl on a long journey with an older man and the other involves the rescue of a white girl who had been kidnapped by Indians.  Jiles is an accomplished poet and it greatly enhances her narrative writing style.  She has been so successful at bringing the characters and the times they lived in to the reading audience that she was a finalist for the National Book Award and was recommended by the Gulf Coast Reads Association as well as Galveston Reads.

For those of you who love historical fiction and are fans of our Texas culture, this book is a wonderful read.  Our state history is so very rich with characters like this.  It is no wonder that we are proud to be Texans...

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