Nancy E. Turner






Regan Books, Harper Perennial 1998
Reviewed by Barbara Fielding

THESE IS MY WORDS is the diary of a young pioneer woman. Sarah Prine is seventeen years-old when she begins her journey by wagon from New Mexico to Texas with her parents and four brothers. By the time they reach their destination she has lost her six year-old brother Clover to snakebite, and her Papa has succumbed to infection from an Indian arrow. The remaining family are all traumatized by the hardship and losses on the trip. Sarah's mama has disappeared into herself with grief and her oldest brother Albert consoles himself by taking a wife - a lovely Quaker girl named Savannah Lawrence. The Prines met the Lawrence family on the trip to Texas and it was young Sarah's courage that saved the Lawrence girls from near death at the hands of Indians and outlaws.

The Prines came to San Angelo to raise horses, however, they arrive minus the horses and grateful to be alive. Sarah and her older brothers, Albert and Ernest, must decide their future. They all agree it does not lie in Texas and sign up with a wagon train going west to the Arizona Territory. It will take them back to the area they left and is close to the home they now wish they had never left. This decision is the doorway to the beginning of Sarah's journey to adulthood.

THESE IS MY WORDS is an absorbing tale of a young woman growing up in the hardship of frontier life. The diary covers a twenty year span of Sarah's life. Sarah is an unusual girl: hungry to learn, headstrong, and a sharpshooter. Her resilience and grit are chronicled in the first person through her dated diary entries. When Sarah begins her diary entries, her grammar and spelling are those of a barely educated, yet bookish girl. As her story moves forward you see the growth in her education under the tutorship of her new sister-in-law. Her descriptions and prose grow more beautiful with each page.

A young Sarah also finds herself caught between romantic feelings for two men, a boyhood family friend and the Calvary Officer who led their wagon train to Arizona. She pours her tender feelings and awakening heart into her journal, giving readers an entertaining look into her emotional experience.

Author Nancy Turner paints a vivid portrait of frontier life and creates the kind of story you feel immersed in. I hated having to put this book down. Sarah Prine is a fictional character who will live in my memory for a long time. THESE IS MY WORDS was published almost twenty years ago but it is a novel of a timeless appeal. Sarah is reportedly based upon a person from Ms. Turner's family memoirs and was first published as a serialized story in Good Housekeeping magazine. THESE IS MY WORDS was a Double Day Book Club Selection and a finalist for The Willa Cather Literary Award. There is a sequel, SARAH'S QUILT: THE CONTINUING STORY OF SARAH AGNES PRINE 1906 (2005) and reprinted under a another title SARAH'S QUILT: A NOVEL OF SARAH AGNES PRINE AND THE ARIZONA TERRITORY 1906 (Reprinted 2006). A final installment of Sarah Prine's trilogy will be published in September of 2007.

December 2006


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