November 21, 2009
These Is My Words
These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 by Nancy E. Turner
Fiction (Historical & Epistolary)
1998 Regan Books (Harper Collins Imprint)
Finished on 11/18/09
Rating: 4.5/5 (Terrific)
A nice girl should never go anywhere without a loaded gun and a big knife. (Sarah Agnes Prine)
In a compelling fiction debut, Nancy E. Turner's unforgettable These Is My Words melds the sweeping adventures and dramatic landscapes of Lonesome Dove with the heartfelt emotional saga of Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All.
Inspired by the author's original family memoirs, this absorbing story introduces us to the questioning, indomitable Sarah Prine, one of the most memorable women ever to survive and prevail in the Arizona Territory of the late 1800s. As a child, a fiery young woman, and finally a caring mother, Sarah forges a life as full and fascinating as our deepest needs, our most secret hopes, and our grandest dreams.
Rich in authentic details of daily life and etched with striking character portraits of very different pioneer families, this action-packed novel is also the story of a powerful, enduring love between Sarah and the dashing cavalry officer Captain Jack Elliot. While their love grows, the heartbreak and wonder of the frontier experience unfolds in scene after scene.
Sarah's incredible story leads us into a vanished world that comes vividly to life again, while her struggle with work and home, love and responsibility resonate with those ever woman faces today. These Is My Words is a passionate celebration of a remarkable life, exhilarating and gripping from the first page to last.
I was so happy when my book club voted to read These Is My Words for our November selection. I first read this excellent novel six years ago (coincidentally, finishing on November 13th, just five days shy of my finish date this year). Of course I was a bit nervous about the re-read since I'd given it a perfect rating the first time around. What if I didn't like it nearly as well? Worse yet, what if knowing all the climatic plot points spoiled the enjoyment of the story? I guess it's the sign of a great book when it's just as entertaining the second time as the first. Even after just a mere six years, I'd forgotten several major details and found myself completely sucked back into Sarah's world. Unfortunately, the past few weeks have been pretty hectic and I wasn't able to spend more than a few minutes each night reading before falling sound asleep. It took me twice as long to finish the book (17 days!), which explains the minor reduction in my rating this time around. Had it ended up being just as good and compelling as my first reading, I would have made more time to read, even if it meant staying up late at night, just to get another chapter read.
So, are you curious to see what I had to say in my first review? Here you are:
After a lukewarm beginning, I fell in love with this marvelous coming-of-age story of courage, family, love and loss. The epistolary style is always fun to read and I was easily convinced that the diary could really be true. This book has everything. Indian raids, suspense, history, romantic tension, humor and drama (snakes!). I laughed and cried. I didn't want to finish reading this gem and plan to read it again (and give it as gifts this Christmas). Sarah and Jack's story will stay with me always. Rating: A+ (10/10 One of the best books I've ever read.)
And, yes, I gave it to several friends and relatives for Christmas that year. And each and everyone said they loved it (and Captain Jack!).
I have so many favorite passages, but I'll only share a few, so as not to spoil the book for those who wish to read it themselves.
On the love of books:
Being my share of nosey, I climbed up inside and found the dearest treasure I think I have ever seen. The wagon bed was lined with boxes of books. Books and books, stacked and packed in rows with leather covers on them and some had gold and ribboned edges. Some of them were story books, some of them seemed to be school books, and were about things I don't know of, and one is a magical book, with a big D on it, a book of words to learn to spell and what they mean...
This wagon is a treasure chest and I am suddenly struck greedier than ever in my life. I want it so bad I am just beside myself. All those words to read and know is more than my insides can stand and I am trembling all over with excitement.
I have been reading and reading many books. I know if I ever get word who they might belong to I should give them back so I am trying to read as much as possible in case that happens soon, but I would be sad to have to do that. I must never forget to be grateful for the gift of these books.
That man makes me feel like I have my bonnet on backwards.
On true love:
One thing I know, whispered Savannah, is that if he was quiet, and you were quiet, and neither of you minded it, then you are in love.
What? I never heard such a thing, I said. Why should being quiet mean you're in love?
Because, she said. That means you aren't nervous with each other, or affected, or likely to be hiding intentions behind too much conversation. A friendly silence can speak between two who will walk together a long way, she said.
Is that in the Bible? I asked.
No. My Pa said it, more than once. He liked to be quiet, and sit by the fire with Mama and watch her read or sew, or the both of them would just watch the fire die down before turning in.
On the passing of years:
My life feels like a book left out on the porch and the wind blows the pages faster and faster, turning always toward a new chapter faster than I can stop and read it.
Nancy Turner is such a great storyteller and I'm excited to see what's lies ahead for Sarah and her family. I have a copy of Sarah's Quilt: A Novel of Sarah Agnes Prine and the Arizona Territories, 1906 (the second in what is now a trilogy) and am anxious to start reading it now that I've refreshed my memory of the details in These Is My Words. From what I've heard, the third novel (The Star Garden: A Novel of Sarah Agnes Prine) is equally as enjoyable as the first two. Let's hope this author is busy working on another book!
The real Sarah Prine is third from the left. Young girl is Nancy's mother at age 11. The tallest lady is Nancy's grandmother, teller of stories and baker of pies, and the lady on the far right is Nancy's great- great grandmother, Roxie Virginia Stockman Reed. (Quoted from Nancy Turner's website)
Oh, and what did my book group think of this novel? Unfortunately, we wound up with one of the smallest gatherings to date (which meant more Jalapeno Poppers, Mexican Wedding Cookies, and Adirondack Margaritas for the four us who were able to attend), but from the responses I received, everyone loved it (and Captain Jack, of course!). It'll be interesting to see who goes on to read the sequels (and why others don't).