These is My Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901
By Nancy E. Turner

"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 a coming-of-age story, in the form of a diary kept by Sarah Agnes Prine. It is inspired by the true story of the author's pioneering great-grandmother - she has drawn upon her diary of life in the Arizona Territory of late 1800's, and turned it into a story of courage, tenacity, and love. "These Is My Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901" is her fully realized portrait of a fascinating pioneer woman.

The story begins when Sarah is seventeen, traveling with her family by wagon train from the Arizona territories to Texas. During this wagon trip, Sarah meets cavalry officer Captain Jack Elliot, a rogue and a charmer. At first unimpressed, her relationship with him grows over the vast distances and harsh terrains they travel. Eventually there grows a passion between them, and the loss and loneliness both suffer only strengthen their need for each other.

Oh, but it's not a love story. It's a life story - The entire novel is composed of diary entries, following Sarah's growth from precocious girl-child to a fiery woman to caring mother and wife. In reading her journal, we watch her as she forges a life full and fascinating as deepest need. We watch her save a discarded wagonful of books and greedily protect them so she can learn how to read. We watch her ride Indian-style and shoot with deadly aim, we watch her face fires and floods and Comanche raids with the unique sort of courage we can only dream of having, the sort that built the American West.

The wonder of the frontier experience shows over and over in quiet understated scenes: a wagon-train Sunday spent roasting quail on spits as Indians close in to attack; Sarah's silent encounter with an Indian brave in which he shows her his way of respect; Sarah's joy in building a real home, sketching out rooms and wraparound porches. A life, somewhere else.

As the title suggests, the words of the early diary entries are those of a poorly educated 17-year-old writer. Reading books written in a semiliterate form is often hard, but Ms. Turner deals with this by supplanting the earlier writing style as Sarah's spelling and usage grow. What was the question again?

You might consider this book too simple, or just for women, because of the clear woman's voice. Yes, the writing is transparently simple but the story is direct and gripping, vivid. Like I said, it's a passionate celebration of a remarkable life, and I found it exhilarating.

Gotta keep noding my liberry, details from the book on my shelf and:

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