NEWS OF THE WORLD by Paulette Jiles: A Review

Paulette Jiles is a San Antonio poet, novelist, and memorist.  In this 2016 publication, she describes in poetic, vibrant wording the realities and hard times of the western frontier.

She tells the story of Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, aka “Captain” and “Captain Kidd,” a “reader of the news” of the world. Captain Kidd travels from frontier town to frontier town  in a wagon bought from a snake oil salesman, which has the faded letters, “Curative Waters” on its side. Captain brings news of the world to each town, reading from newspapers from New York, London, and other hub cities.  He censors and edits his performance readings depending on the politics and conditions found in each town. My Oral Interpretation professor would certainly have given him an A+, for he keeps his rough, uneducated audiences spellbound by the sound of his voice.Early in this page-turner, he takes on the task of returning a ten year old white girl, held captive by the Kiowa since she was a tiny child to her relatives in a small Texas town.  He accepts this assignment on moral grounds as well as for the few pieces of gold coin that he is given. However, Johanna, the child, wants nothing more than to remain a Kiowa, having no memories of her life as a white child. Eventually, early childhood memories and language begin to surface, and she comes to call Captain “Kantah,” Kiowa for grandfather.  Their relationship is the focus and theme of the book.

A sub-theme is dimes, silver dimes. This is the price of admission for Captain’s readings.  They eventually save Captain and Johanna’s lives when they have to use them for ammunition. A memorable encounter in the middle of the novel is when Kiowa braves appear, and Johanna is faced with the strongest decision of her life.  Will she choose to go back to the Kiowa with the warriors? Captain faces his own decision as well: What would be best for Johanna?

The epilogue is most satisfactory. Loose ends are tied up and the reader feels good with outcomes, the decisions made, and what happens to characters he/she has come to love.

This is definitely a 5 out of 5 points book, which has action, excellent characterization, and an appeal that will keep you up late reading.

WAYFARING STRANGER by James Lee Burke

This is the first book in the Holland Family Trilogy by James Lee Burke, a new writer to me, but one to whom I will return again and again. The novel has wonderful writing and masterful dialogue.

The story begins in 1934 when 16 year old Weldon Holland sees Bonnie and Clyde camped out on his grandfather’s wooded land and eventually shoots into the back of their departing car “after one of their notorious robberies.” Fast forward 10 years and we meet Lieutenant Weldon Holland again as he survives the Battle of the bulge with fellow sole survivor of their platoon, Hershel Pine from Louisiana. The two find themselves behind German lines where they rescue Rosita Lowenstein “hiding in a deserted extermination camp.”  The two, Weldon and Rosita marry, and with Hershel return to Texas.  They start an oil company together.

Although Weldon, idealist that he is, thinks he has seen an end to evil in the war, he soon finds he must “…[save] his family and friends from the evil forces that lurk in peacetime America”– think McCarthy witch hunts, big oil brutality, corrupt cops, mafia influences and Hollywood corruption.

The book is an exhilarating, exciting, sometimes exhausting read, one which keeps the reader turning pages and holding his/her breath to see what happens next.

I can hardly wait to read book two which has just been published.

PATHFINDERS by Aidan J. Reid

This 2016 publication is the debut novel of an up and coming Irish author, Aidan J. Reid.  It has everything a reader would want in action, suspense and interesting themes.

Lucid dreaming, the ability to enter one’s dreamstate and affect what is going on has interested psychologists for a while now, and is being used in therapy (by changing nightmares into dreams with positive, uplifting outcomes) today.

In this book, Breagal, a mysterious,strange librarian and Victor enter the dream mind of Victor’s friend Norman, who is comatose after a horrific auto accident. The question posed on the back cover is, “Can [they] search the deepest darkest recesses of Norman’s mind and rescue [him] before time runs out?”  Every chapter ends on a cliffhanger, leaving the reader wondering, “How will they ever get out of this predicament?” Fortunately, the author assures us one CAN affect what happens next in a nightmare.

Creativity is rampant in this novel, and I am sure professors who one day assign this to their classes will discuss thoroughly the symbolism throughout, but for those of us who just love a “good read”, this novel “fills the bill” thoroughly.

I am anticipating a complete shift in gears and a respect for the author’s versatility in his latest (June 2016) release, Sigil.