In post-Civil War Texas, the world is still a rough and lawless place. Information spreads slowly and divides run deep and dangerous. Captain Kidd – a veteran of two wars and a witness of more – travels from town to town and reads the news.
In our world of instant information it’s difficult to imagine crowds gathering to listen to an old man read from week-old newspapers. Jiles uses the sheer novelty of such a way to make a living in order to capture the reader’s attention. The Captain is likeable and charismatic and Jiles sets the scene well, both in terms of Texas and the characters the Captain encounters. The Captain is a messenger, bringing news from places that seem imaginary to the people of Texas, like London or India.
Early on in the novel the Captain is given something else to deliver: a girl. Recently reclaimed from the Kiowa Indians, this ten-year-ld has spent four years with the Kiowas and remembers nothing of her former life. While the Captain takes Johannah on a dangerous journey across the state to her closest living relatives, he must also help her re-learn English and re-acclimatize to Western life. Even if he’s not sure that this is the best thing for her.
The story is short and interesting enough to make it a quick read. There aren’t a lot of surprises or twists but the setting itself kept my attention and I enjoyed watching the relationship between Johannah and the Captain grow.