This month my book club discussed These is my Words by Nancy E. Turner which tells the amazing story of Sarah Agnes Prine, written in diary form. Here’s a description of the book from goodreads.com:
“Inspired by the author’s original family memoirs, this absorbing story introduces us to the questing, 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 as fascinating as our deepest needs, our most secret hopes and our grandest dreams. She rides Indian-style and shoots with deadly aim, greedily devours a treasure trove of leatherbound books, downs fire, flood, Comanche raids and other mortal perils with the unique courage that forged the character of the American West.
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. Neither the vast distances traveled nor the harsh and killing terrains could quench the passion between them, and the loss and loneliness both suffer only strengthen their need for each other.”
One of the first things I noticed about this book was a description on the book cover comparing the love story in the book to Gone With the Wind, which happens to be my favorite book. So right off the bat, it had pretty big shoes to fill. The second thing I noticed was that, especially in the beginning, the book is written with a heavy dialect and poor grammar, because the narrator and main character is uneducated and the book is written in journal form. This made the book a little difficult to get into initially, mixed with a very action driven pioneer / Oregon Trail beginning with a lot of descriptions of their life on the road which was very hard but not always interesting.
But around page 50 or so, things start to pick up and you start to realize how awesome Sarah Prine is – and as her character develops and matures, so does the writing style and plot. It gradually fades from torturous life on the road and Indian raids to a coming of age love story with the rich backdrop of life in the 1800’s in the Arizona territories. And I was hooked.
I really loved this book. Though it was a bit slow to get into initially, this story really sucked me in once it got going. I loved the great attention to detail that the author gave to the story – leaving no stone unturned, she clearly did a lot of research for this story and it shows. I loved all the little facts and details of life in the 1800’s and the gradual coming of age of the main character was fascinating to read – and the love story. Oh, lord – it was good.
One drawback to this book is that it is very sad and tragic at a lot of points. Sarah does not lead an easy life and she faces more than her fair share of hardships. I cried a lot reading this book – but I laughed a lot, too, and overall it was not a deal breaker for me the way some other heavy books have been in the past. I was able to keep reading and as the characters overcame their hardships, I overcame the experience of reading about them. The book maintained a hopeful, fighting to overcome tone that was uplifting and inspiring. I definitely recommend this one.