by Tall Poppy Ella Joy Olsen
Sometimes you choose a book because it’s highly recommended and sometimes you choose it because it’s just the right length. Come on, we all do it. News of the World, a National Book Award Finalist by Paulette Jiles, is both.
This year I began teaching a continuing education course called “Remaking the Past” at the University of Utah and I needed a recently written historical fiction that was short enough for a six week course. I was hoping for a plot simple enough to easily dissect, an obvious inciting incident, a likeable main character, and a clear story arc filled with just enough (but not too much) historical detail.
News of the World was exactly the book I needed. But the most important part? I LOVED it!
The story is a hero’s journey of sorts, a wagon trip through Northern Texas just after the Civil War. It’s a time and a place I’d not explored in historical fiction and I found it captivating. It is truly a Wild West tale, complete with gun fights, sagebrush, and snakes. It explores race relations in the Deep South after slavery was no longer legal, but racism was rampant.
The relationship that develops between Captain Kidd (an old man who reads about current events in church halls and saloons all across Texas) and Johanna (a young girl stolen from her family by the Kiowa tribe then returned) is endearing and genuine, and develops gently as the unlikely pair travel from Wichita Falls to San Antonio, defying all odds.
I highly recommend this compact, gorgeously written, little gem of a book!
Ella Joy Olsen was born, raised and currently resides in Salt Lake City, Utah, a charming town tucked at the base of the massive Rocky Mountains. She is the mom of three kids ranging from just-barely-teen to just-flown-the-nest-teen, the mama of two dogs, and the wife of one patient husband.
She graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in finance but after years spent waxing on about facts and figures, Ella gave up her corner cubicle and started writing fiction. Interestingly, she now teaches a course on writing historical fiction at her alma mater. She has also lived in Seattle, Washington & Savannah, Georgia.
Ella is the author of ROOT, PETAL,THORN (September 2016) and WHERE THE SWEET BIRD SINGS (September 2017). In addition to Tall Poppy Writers, Ella is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association.