The library has an Adult Book Group that meets the first Wednesday night of the month at 6:00 pm. If you would like to join the group, call Barbara Sigwalt at 944-6452 at the library for more information.
News of the World by Paulette Jiles – To be discussed on Wed, March 6, 2019 at Geneseo Public Library
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.
1. What might the experience of coming to hear a news reader be like? Did the author’s choice of having a news-reading scene be our first moments of the book help you move into the world of the story?
2. What was your initial impression of Captain Kidd? What details contributed to that impression?
3. Several commentaries offer the observation that News of the World is deceptively simple. What might this mean? Is it a compliment, or is it a neutral observation? Do you agree?
4. Which elements of a traditional Western are evident in News of the World?
5. What do we learn of Kidd’s youth? How does this inform the story? Were you glad to know more about his past?
6. From the first scene in which Johanna is introduced, we are treated to brief moments of her perceptions. How do these glimpses enhance the story? What do we learn?
7. How would you characterize Johanna’s behavior? Is it believable?
8. In what ways does Kidd try to help Johanna become ready for re-assimilation into her new life?
9. Conversely, what does Johanna teach Kidd?
10. Jiles did a great deal of research on captives. Does it show? Does her work make this a better story in any way, or would it not have been much different to either make it up or leave in the background?
11. From what we learn around the edges and from Johanna’s thoughts, would you say the Kiowa are depicted sympathetically?
12. What were some of the memorable encounters along the journey?
13. Describe the reunion between Johanna and her people. How does the Captain try to help? How is he treated?
14. After he left her with family, was the Captain right to intervene?
15. What was your reaction to the lives they created for themselves? Were you surprised? Satisfied?
16. Was John Calley a good man? How would you describe him? What were the three circumstances in which they encountered him?
17. What purpose did the talk Captain and Johanna have on her wedding day serve?
18. Several of the characters, including Britt Johnson and Captain Kidd, are based on true historical figures. Is this surprising? Does this change your perception of them at all?
19. Would you describe this as a realistic story?
20. Where in the novel does the title appear? Does it have significance beyond the literal?
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