News of the World

by Paulette Jiles

Rating: ★★★

A very Hollywood book that fulfilled its promise by becoming a Tom Hanks film.

There, that's the review.

Okay, look, there's nothing wrong with this. It's a story about an old man carting a girl back to her relatives after she was ransomed from the tribe that captured her when she was six. Having lived with the Kiowa for four formative years, she basically is one, so The Captain has to patiently and partially rehabilitate her as he travels. Bits of that are pretty cute, but it's also made very clear how cruel this well-intentioned repatriation is to the young Kiowa girl.

The Captain is an old Confederate, and so is the Texas landscape they travel. The towns are being neglected as punishment for the Confederacy, delivering actually important news is like openly calling for a fight, and there are always raiders somewhere. The Captain makes money by reading the news (with dignity and gravitas) and handles the inflammatory nature of actual news by mostly talking about far-off and inconsequential stories that soothe and distract his audience.

It's all fairly by-the-books. There's a little action, a few adventures, a deepening relationship, and a wholesome conclusion. I don't know if Jiles was actively pitching Tom Hanks or not but the script was a clear shoe-in for him once it for some reason won a book award and got some press. It's not great literature, it's not terribly gripping or otherworldly, but it has a certain ring of truth to it and is easily consumed.