Wednesday, June 23, 2010

These is My Words

These Is My Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine. By Nancy E. Turner. 1998. HarperCollins. 416 pages.

A storm is rolling in, and that always makes me a little sad and wistful so I got it in my head to set to paper all these things that have got us this far on our way through this heathen land.

These Is My Words is the fictional diary of a young woman, Sarah Prine, living (mostly) in the Arizona Territory in the 1880s and 1890s. Sarah's life is anything but easy.

Readers learn this from the start. Within the first twenty or so pages, Sarah experiences loss after loss after loss. A younger brother dying by snakebite. Another brother being shot and having to have his leg amputated. Indians attacking the wagon train the Prine family is traveling with. With multiple deaths there. Including her father--though his death isn't immediate. Witnessing the brutal rape of a friend. But Sarah isn't weak. She isn't one to give up with a fight. For example, witnessing the rape leads her to sneak away, get her gun, and shoot the attackers dead.

Sarah is an incredibly strong heroine. Circumstances forcing her time and time again to be strong, brave, independent. To think on her feet. To fight for herself. To fight for her family. To fight for her land.

The novel covers twenty years. Readers see Sarah grow and develop. We see her as a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, a widow. We see her disappointed with life, with love. We see her courage as she chooses to love again. Sarah is a woman who doesn't give up. She's got plenty of gumption.

There is something raw and spirited about These Is My Words. I found These Is My Words to be compelling.

Here are a few of my favorite passages:
Taking up marriage is a good excuse for taking up cursing, I think. (248)
Children are a burden to a mother, but not the way a heavy box is to a mule. Our children weigh hard on my heart, and thinking about them growing up honest and healthy, or just living to grow up at all, makes a load in my chest that is bigger than the safe at the bank, and more valuable to me than all the gold inside it. (303)
One of my favorite scenes is when Sarah exhausted by her work and her children confronts her soldier husband.
All day long I had been at my wit's end alone with these children, and just barely heated up some scraps of beef from yesterday and put in a little vegetable to make a stew, when here came Jack with Blue Horse and some other soldier I don't even know as company for dinner, and on top of that asked me to cut his hair and draw him a bath as he was too tired to haul the water.
I am ever thankful that soldier took one look at me showing with a baby coming along, with my hair falling down, and the broom lying at a mound of broken glass, and supper boiling over on the stove, April wearing a dirty pinafore screaming for me to hold her, and just then the baby in my arms spit up all over me, and he said, You know, Captain Elliot, I forgot to rub down my horse, but I'd be kindly obliged if you'd let me have supper some other time.
When he left, I turned to Jack Elliot and said, If you are too tired to haul water, you are too tired to bathe in it, and I am fit to be tied. Your supper is on the stove and your children are driving me to distraction and April has lost the scissors under the house through a crack in the floor so there will be no haircut tonight. If that don't please you, then I will put on a uniform and ride out of here tomorrow morning and chase around the countryside and you can wear this apron and tend these crying children and this drafty house from dark to dark and then tell me you think I should haul you a bath.
He looked real startled. It is the first time I have ever just purely lost my temper over anything Jack has done. Blue Horse laughed, but when I frowned at him he quieted real quick. I have just had my fill of men and their ways of ordering people around, lately. (310)
All ends well. With that scene. It actually turns sweet.

While These Is My Words probably isn't for everyone, for readers looking for a book about strong, stubborn pioneering women, this one might make a good fit.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Janssen said...

Oh, I loved this book. One of my very favorites of last year.

Tricia said...

This book is quite possibly my favorite book. The rest of the series is definitely worth reading too!

Jeane said...

I liked it too. I haven't read any of the sequels yet, but want to.

Shelley said...

My characters are also strong, stubborn women working on the land, as you describe Turner's. What's interesting to me about such women is that in our current economic hard times, what our foremothers did to survive can actually become helpful. Thanks for that review and for the touching scene about the visitor.