In the aftermath of the Civil War, an aging itinerant news reader agrees to transport a young captive of the Kiowa back to her people in this exquisitely rendered, morally complex, multilayered novel of historical fiction from the author of Enemy Women that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.
In the wake of the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings from newspapers to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence.
In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna's parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the ten-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows.
Their 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Johanna has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act "civilized." Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forming a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land.
Arriving in San Antonio, the reunion is neither happy nor welcome. The captain must hand Johanna over to an aunt and uncle she does not remember - strangers who regard her as an unwanted burden. A respectable man, Captain Kidd is faced with a terrible choice: abandon the girl to her fate or become - in the eyes of the law - a kidnapper himself.
©2016 Paulette Jiles. (P)2015 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved. Published by arrangement with William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. All Rights Reserved.
It's been five years since Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at the Appomattox Courthouse. A veteran of three wars, Capt. Jefferson Kyle Kidd has known mostly a life of being a soldier. With a blunt and sometimes cantankerous exterior, Capt. Kidd is also well known for his dedication to honor and duty. While the 70 yr. old's soldier days are over, the unrest goes on as the western frontier expands rapidly, destroying the traditional way of life of the many American Indians. Immigration from other states, especially from Mexico and Germany, new settlements of farmers and ranchers, have brought barbed wire fences, fights over natural resources, and the extinction of the buffalo. Kidd has carved out the new profession of *Public Reader* -- traveling throughout the settlements in Texas holding public readings of newspapers to crowds eager for the *news of the world:* "[the 15th Amendment has just been ratified] extending the right to vote to all men without regard to race or previous condition of servitude. 'That means colored gentlemen,' he tells his audiences. 'Let us have no vaporings or girlish shrieks.'" An educated and theatrical man, Kidd draws huge crowds with his colorful readings, charging a dime to read aloud the news, but nothing local which he considers opinions and gossip. As described by Jiles, he reminded me a little of the spirited wizard in the Wizard of Oz.
When no locals are willing to make a journey to return a little girl just rescued from the Kiowa, Kidd is reluctant but honor-bound to accept the calling. The 10 yr.old girl has been with the Kiowa for four years and seems a *hellion* to Kidd. With the fifty dollars he is given to make the journey, he buys a wagon, has the local Wichita Falls whores bathe and dress her, and sets off with the little *savage* for San Antonio to deliver her to German immigrant aunt and uncle. During the journey the unlikely duo share, (and it is a wild trip!) the two develop a bond that melts your heart, as you might expect. Kidd understands the girl's Indian ways, the freedom of living unfettered by the events and confines of the world; Johanna (a name the girl refuses to respond to) slowly begins to trust the white haired old man, even begins to call him Grandfather. Together they are an odd team, fighting off Indians and other opportunistic predators.
Jiles's Kidd is my favorite character in a while, a crusty but noble man that is completely without guile. His nature allows him to observe the girl and the conflicting culture with respect; slowly she begins to bloom under his care. His sincere observations and acts of humanity burn in your heart and will most likely fill your eyes with tears. When Johanna bends over with a knife to scalp a dead man, Kidd patiently explains to her the practice “is considered very impolite” among white men, and simply isn’t done. Her ability to survive, adapt, and still hold onto the practices she loves -- learned during her years with the Indians -- is written so well you understand without judgement. What this author produces is a pure love story that is beyond what you may expect. She writes the landscape and atmosphere of the times vividly -- I remember the book as if I rolled over the wonderful Texas landscape in a bumpy wagon myself, the smell of rivers and sage brush, the crunch of big Burr Oak acorns under the squeaking wooden wheels.
I first gave the book 4 stars, it's short almost like a novella, but I realized it's still packed with everything you could want out of a great read (except more of it). I highly recommend; one of my top choices for 2016 and definitely the winner for the Fall releases. Beautifully read...I think you will hold onto this and yearn for more of Capt. Jefferson Kyle Kidd.
Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories.
This is why I love books. A story well conceived with very well drawn characters, that knows exactly where it’s going, and how to get there. Told in a straightforward manner with beautiful command of language and no fancy literary trappings getting in the way of the narrative, this is just damn fine storytelling. The historical context is interesting and the author manages to infuse an air of natural authenticity that invites you into the characters’ lives. Captain Kidd is endearing as he uses patience and creativity in his attempts to draw Johanna out of her fear and suspicion of the white culture she is suddenly forced into. There is warmth, frustration, and humor as the two form a bond that feeds both of their souls. There may not be any major surprises in this tale, but that’s ok. The journey is so much more important than the destination and I enjoyed every minute. I especially appreciated narrator Grover Gardner’s voicing of the Captain, giving him his faintly melodic Georgia drawl that emphasized his kind and gentlemanly nature as well as the steely resolve that came out when needed. Comparisons to Lonesome Dove have been made, and I agree – my affection for the Captain is in line with my feelings for Gus McRae. Highly recommended and I am looking forward to more from this author.
There's a reason this highly entertaining book is ranked so high on every review site. The story hooks you with action, history, and moral dilemmas that make for great drama.
I recommend this book for anyone looking for engaging entertainment without excessive sex and violence.
Admittedly, this started a bit slow for me, but the fluid prose and wonderful characterization pulled me in. "The Captain" and Johanna are just perfection. The story is reminiscent of "The Searchers" ( a classic John Wayne film), lots of action and excellent history detailing the politics in Texas following the Civil War. Excellent narrator.
This book takes through hard times after the Civil War / the action moves slowly as a young girl captured by an Indian tribe is slowly being brought back her Texan relatives by a graceful
elderly man who reads the news to illiterate rurals. The story is enchanting.
We live in North Texas so we appreciated the history in this book immensely. The story is so real you are in the wagon with Captain Kidd and Grover Gardner is our favorite narrator.
What more could a person want from a book on a long road trip.
One master-passion in the br east, like Aaron's serpent, swallows all the rest. A. Pope
A truly touching tale, without the sentimentality I've seen some authors try to jam down our throats in recent books. The novel is accessibly written with prose just as forceful and colorful as the verbose Faulkner/McCarthy while being both more cinematic and more lyrical. It's somewhat reminiscent of Papa Hemingway with the moral complexities, but it's also about family and honor and commitment, in a lawless Texas of the 1870s.
The two main characters are a 70+ year old news reader and a frightened, but courageous, well-drawn 10-year-old girl who spent the last 4 years as part of the Kiowa tribe of the plains that captured her after killing her Alsatian German-speaking parents and sister. The trip to return the girl to her family in San Antonio, Texas, is about 2 weeks: a vivid adventure, at times humorous, at others haunting and compelling, and always a pleasure as we get to see a special bond form between this old man whose family has all moved away from him and this young girl who has now been taken from two families in her brief 10 years.
This is one of the best books I have ever listened to. I would not consider myself a fan of westerns but this was so much more. The only other book like it that I can recall is Lonesome Dove which is also probably the only other western I've ever read! And I loved them both.
The author paints such vivid pictures with her words. I felt like I was right there with them through the whole trip. And I loved the subtle humor sprinkled throughout.
This was a much shorter book than I normally buy and I did not want it to end. I could have listened for another ten hours.
I have listened to Grover Gardner on other audible books and he was perfect for this one.
Five stars for everything!
I'm a life long avid reader with an hour commute for work. Audible makes my commute actually something to look forward to. I'm a registered nurse in women's health at a very busy hospital and love it.
This has turned out to be my favorite book this year. Loved it! Heartwarming story, but not over sentimental or saccharine.
The Book Snob for Paris Life Magazine.
Finally. Finally. Another wonderful book about Texas and our very diverse population. I fell in complete love. There is a reason this was long listed for the National Book Award. Finally another book full of the achingly brilliant sky and people who settle into your heart. Why don't books like this get more attention without award nominations? Hurry to read it, it's short and it's surprisingly applicable at the same time that is a beautiful reminder of our almost distant past. And yes, if you loved True Grot and Lonesome Dove you'll be in heaven.
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