Written by Nancy Turner
This is a snapshot of the life of Sarah Agnes Prine from 1881 to 1901. It begins when she is a 17 year old girl traveling with her family from the Arizona Territories to greener pastures in Texas. This voyage (as well as a few others) and life in the Territories is shared from Sarah's perspective through a novel comprised of her diary entries. It's full of adventure, heartache, and a truly swoon-worthy romance. It's honest and funny. I don't think I have ever read a book that has simultaneously made me long for a life in a different era and also be so glad I don't live in it. Sarah is a lovable, relatable character who is hardworking, down-to-earth, intelligent, and stubborn. She has a thirst for knowledge and a knack for writing that make this novel inspiring and enjoyable.
"It seems there is always a road with bends and forks to choose, and taking one path means you can never take another one. There's no starting over nor undoing the steps I've taken. It isn't like I'd want to... It's just that I want everything, my insides are not just hungry, but greedy" (p. 309).
Since I'm sure you'll wonder how much, if any, of this diary is real, I'll tell you. The novel is a historical fiction, based on the real Sarah Agnes Prine, the great-grandmother of author Nancy Turner. As an assignment at a local junior college, Turner decided to write a short story about her great-grandmother Sarah and thus began These Is My Words. Turner says that while she had heard many stories of her great-grandmother, she didn't know many facts about her life. Turner used the only written documentation of her family's story available - a memoir written by Sarah's older brother, Henry, describing a wagon trip from Arizona to Texas. Turner used real events from Henry's memoir, actual places and dates that correspond with historical events, and real people that lived in Pima County at that time. However, there was no diary from Sarah's life. While many of Sarah's character traits are authentic, the details of her life were imagined by Turner. Many of the main characters were also created for the story. So, though it is based on a real person, it is a work of fiction. A fabulous work of fiction.
"Mama told me to make a special point to remember the best times of my life. There are so many hard things to live through, and latching on to the good things will give you strength to endure, she says. So I must remember this day. It is beautiful and this seems like the best time to live and the best place" (p. 327).
One of my favorite things about the story was watching Sarah grow up. We only see a glimpse of twenty years of her long life (the real Sarah lived into her nineties!), but they are perhaps the twenty years of the most growth, change, and life. She starts as a simple girl and becomes a loving wife, a strong mother, and a wise woman. I enjoyed watching her relationships change as she did, in particular her relationship with her mother. At one point Sarah explains, "I don't think I really knew my own mother until I had children" (p. 370). As a mother myself now, this made me long to really know my mother, for all my child-memories of her seem insufficient. I look forward to the day when I can sit and talk with her and really find out who she is.
"We are driving away, and I look back over my shoulder with a strange feeling of parting. It is not a lonely feeling, but just as I am always sad to close the cover on a book, I feel I have finished with this part of my life and will have to begin a new book" (p. 286).
This quote is talking about books like These Is My Words. The kind of book that you don't want to finish so you stretch out the last twenty pages over a few days just so you can let it linger a little longer. Let this be your next novel; You won't regret it. Then give me a call so we can chat about it.