This was an excellent novel. Jiles tells the story of Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a former printer who now makes his living as a news reader in Texas. He is paid to bring a newly “released” ten-year-old white girl who had been taken from her murdered family by the Kiokwa Tribe at the age of six. Johanna, who like the majority of stolen white children did not want to be returned to the white world, is wild with grief, has lost her knowledge of both white language and customs, and has previously tried to run back to her tribe. When Captain Kidd agrees to take her to her aunt and uncle, he does so as a favor to a friend.
The novel concerns this long and dangerous trip across a Texas where there is no government and therefore no law. Captain Kidd had resigned himself to a lonely existence bringing news of the world to the far-flung towns of the Texas outback, and even though he has helped raise two daughters of his own, has no idea how to connect with Johanna. Their relationship is both interesting and touching. I love how Jiles tells us of the white children who were taken and then returned, how they suffered instead of being relieved at being brought back to their remaining families. We get a story told from one of these children’s point of view.
Not only is there the relationship between the two, but we also get history of America in these years. Captain Kidd is a survivor of three wars, the Union is undergoing extensive changes in 1870, and Texas is always a hot-bed of intrigue and lawlessness. This was a many layered novel, and I highly recommend it. Well done, Jiles!