News of the World by Paulette Jiles
Captain Kidd has taken on the most unusual job of his life- to escort a girl recently recovered from her Kiowa Indian captors back to her extended family. It's the 1870's in Texas, the country is still reeling from the Civil War, and especially Texas is trying to find its footing and establish itself as a state, which is proving to be quite a bumpy process. The way is long, from the north all the way down to a suburb of San Antonio where the girl's family lives, and is fraught with peril- lawless brigands, the harsh environment, raiding Indian parties, and politically charged and armed communities. Captain Kidd has been along the road before, as it is his career to hold readings of the news in public gathering spaces for a small fee as he travels. This time is different, though, as he brings Johanna along, attempting to help her find her way back to the white man's world, to put off some of the habits and mannerisms she has developed during her time with the Indians, to relearn English, and to keep her safe. Along the way, they encounter one particularly scary situation with a man who wants to take Johanna into prostitution, and a good old-fashioned Western shoot out ensues. The experience bonds Johanna and Captain Kidd, and it ultimately proves a bond that won't be broken, even by Johanna's extended family, who take her in as slave labor. After recently reading books that were high on excitement, at first I had a hard time getting into this book. Not only are the descriptions of the west in this book accurate, but so too is the tempo of the book. It is slow and without fancy adornment or attention-grabbing theatrics- and after settling into it, I began to love it as I love the wide open spaces of the rural west. It is beautiful and plain at the same time, it's rhythm slows your heart rate, allows you to breathe deeply, and you become attuned to small details with ease. The shoot out in the book feels particularly exciting because it is out of character with the slower rhythm you have gotten into as you read the rest of the book. It is not long, and is a fairly fast read, and in the end, I absolutely loved it- I'd highly recommend it, but especially if you are looking for a good story with a brave and true protagonist, a book that will help you slow down and appreciate a feeling of peace.