These Is My Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901

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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 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, ...
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Overview

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 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, dreams of scarlet velvet and pearls, falls uneasily in love, and faces down fire, flood, Comanche raids, and other mortal perils with the unique courage that forged the character of the American West. 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. While their love grows, the heartbreak and wonder of the frontier experience unfold in scene after scene: 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; a dreadful discovery by a stream that changes Sarah forever; the hazards of a visit to Phoenix, a town as hot as the devil's frying pan; Sarah's joy in building a real home, sketching out rooms and wraparound porches. Sarah's story leads us into a vanished world that comes vividly to life again, while her struggles with work and home, love and responsibility resonate with those every woman faces today.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Based on the real-life exploits of the author's great-grandmother, this fictionalized diary vividly details one woman's struggles with life and love in frontier Arizona at the end of the last century. When she begins recording her life, Sarah Prine is an intelligent, headstrong 18-year-old capable of holding her own on her family's settlement near Tucson. Her skill with a rifle fends off a constant barrage of Indian attacks and outlaw assaults. It also attracts a handsome Army captain named Jack Elliot. By the time she's 21, Sarah has recorded her loveless marriage to a family friend, the establishment of a profitable ranch, the birth of her first childand the death of her husband. The love between Jack and Sarah, which dominates the rest of the tale, has begun to blossom. Fragmented and disjointed in its early chapters, with poor spelling and grammar, Sarah's journal gradually gains in clarity and eloquence as she matures. While this device may frustrate some readers at first, Taylor's deft progression produces the intended reward: she not only tells of her heroine's growth, but she shows it through Sarah's writing and insights. The result is a compelling portrait of an enduring love, the rough old West and a memorable pioneer. First serial to Good Housekeeping; author tour; Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club selections. (Feb.) FYI: Selected as the March 1998 Good Housekeeping "Novel of the Month."
Library Journal
The first pages of Turner's work read like soap opera. Death by snakebite, Indian attacks, death in childbirth, rape, amputation without anesthetic are only some of the horrors of the first two chapters, in which action overwhelms character. Fortunately, these early entries of the diary of Sarah Agnes Prine are followed by others that introduce us to a remarkable woman and her family. The 30 years she chronicles begin in 1881, when she is 17 and en route from New Mexico Territory to Texas and back. Sarah's courage, resourcefulness, and skill with a rifle help her family survive after the death of her father and the loss of most of their property. However, the most lasting consequence of the ill-fated journey is her acquaintance with Captain Jack Elliott, commander of the troops assigned to protect the settlers from Texas to the Arizona Territory. Sarah resists her attraction to him, but after a brief, loveless marriage leaves her a widow with a child, she acknowledges her love. Their marriage is strong but unconventional, with her managing a growing ranch while he is away on extended military assignments. Readers come to admire Sarah, to share her many losses and rare triumphs. Turner based her novel on the life of her great grandmother. If even half these events are true, she was an amazing woman. For fans of historical fiction.Kathy Piehl, Mankato State Univ., Minn.
School Library Journal
YA-This novel in diary format parallels the early history of the Arizona Territories as Sarah and her family travel from the New Mexico Territory and settle down to carve out a new life on a ranch near Tucson in the 1880s. Sarah's diary, based on the author's family memoirs, is a heartwarming and heartbreaking fictional account of a vibrant and gifted young woman. Sarah starts out as an illiterate, fiery 17 year old. Eventually, her writing becomes as smooth and polished as Sarah herself as she becomes a tenacious, literate, and loving wife and mother. A treasure trove of discovered books becomes the source of her self-education. Turner describes the trip in such detail that one has a sense of having traveled with Sarah, experiencing all of its heartache and sadness, its backbreaking exertion and struggles, its danger and adventure, its gentle and lighter moments. Life in the new country brings the constant fear of Indian raids and the threat and reality of floods, fire, and rattlesnakes; bandits; rough men, and pretentious women all have an effect on the protagonist but her strong marriage makes the effort worthwhile. Sarah centers her world around her home and family but maintains an independent spirit that keeps her whole and alive throughout her many trials and heartaches. This is a beautifully written book that quickly captures readers' attention and holds it tightly and emotionally until the end.-Dottie Kraft, formerly at Fairfax County Public Schools, VA
Kirkus Reviews
A convivial period tale of adventure, love, and marriage, featuring a spunky gun-toting heroine and the brave-hearted soldier she comes to love. "These is" the late-19th-century words of Sarah Prine (whose grammar will improve considerably by the close of the yarn) as she tells the story of her family's trek from their Oregon home to Arizona—a journey that takes a terrible toll, including the death of Papa from a wound in a Comanche attack, a brother's loss of a leg, and the killing of friends who are traveling in the same wagon train. There'll also come the death of a small brother from snakebite, Mama's temporary weakness of mind, and Sarah's own first killing when she rescues young friends from rape. Leading the trek is aloof and hateful Captain Jack Elliot of the Regular Army, with whom Sarah struck a bargain—trading surplus horses for books. Sarah then marries horseman Jimmy Reed and settles down outside Tucson to raise horses. Mama and more family are nearby for the birth of daughter April, but the marriage is not meant to be. Jimmy, actually a deceiver, is accidentally killed at about the time that Sarah rescues none other than Captain Jack himself from death. The courtship of Sarah by Jack is long and quirky, conducted in between Army assignments, but a marriage does ensue, and it's a supremely happy one: Sarah gives birth to three and weathers Jack's many departures for the Army. He's heroic but needy, and an adoring lover; Sarah's heroic not only in spirit but with weaponry. Eventually, she even gets an education. After all the familial triumphs and tragedies, Jack must leave for the last time—in a super weeper of a death scene. A lushly satisfying romance,period-authentic, with true-grit pioneering. (First serial to Good Housekeeping)
Omaha World Herald
"Belongs on your must-read list. This novel is a gem."
The Washington Post
"Incredibly vivid and real and almost as though everything had been found, complete in a box somewhere."
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
"These Is My Words is an entertaining...at times harrowing...reading experience."
Dallas Morning News
"A vivid picture of one woman’s true grit on the frontier."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781568956350
  • Publisher: Cengage Gale
  • Publication date: 3/28/1999
  • Series: Large Print Book Series
  • Pages: 555
  • Product dimensions: 6.35 (w) x 9.34 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Nancy E. Turner is the author of several works of fiction, including The Water and the Blood and Sarah's Quilt. She has been a seam snipper in a clothing factory, a church piano player, a paleontologist's aide, and an executive secretary. She lives in Tucson, Arizona, with her husband and two children.

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Read an Excerpt

These is my Words
The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901

Chapter One

July 22, 1881

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. Its been a sorrowful journey so far and hard and so if we dont get to San Angelo or even as far as Fort Hancock I am saving this little theme in my cigar box for some wandering travelers to find and know whose bones these is.

When they were young Mama and Papa went the Oregon Trail with their folks, and when they married they came from Oregon and started up a little farm near a road by Cottonwood Springs, in the west end of New Mexico Territory. We always ran a fine string of horses, as long as I can remember. My favorite is a little roan with a white nose and I call her Rose. In 1881 we had stuck out a wet winter and a plum pleasant spring. Then Papa and the big boys, that's Ernest and Albert and Jimmy Reed, drove a few of them with the MacIntosh's cattle down to a place called Phoenix and to a place higher up on one end of the valley called Hayden's Ferry. They were gone nearly six weeks, all totaled.

Ernest and Albert is my big brothers, of which I got too youngern's, Harland and Clover. Had a baby sister who went with the angels before she was a year old, so my folks calls her Harriet Jane but on the inside I calls her my Angel Sister. I always thinks of her in my prayers and berried one of my dolls in her little grave so she could grow up and we'd play together. In my mind Angel Sister watches over me. I used to pretend tea parties and jump rope with her. I always wished Ihad a sister more than any other thing there is. It is good to have these brothers here but its not the same as having a girl you can talk to and play with, and besides, they can be an ornery bunch and tease me to no end. I am purely outnumbered.

Harland was nine years old and Clover was six when Papa and the boys come back with their pockets running over in cash, and Papa says that there Phoenix was hotter than the devil's frying pan. So he's getting fed up with the Territory and the farm house in need of fixing and all, he 'spects to point the front end of our wagon towards the Rio Grande and head for greener pastures by way of Texas.

Jimmy Reed got in a quandry about all this talk, 'cause he been living with us like family since his people all died of cholera in Ute territory and that's most of five years. Jimmy Reed couldn't make up his mind should he pull up stakes with us or stay and marry Miss Ruthanne MacIntosh, whose papa owned a good spread and some groves of peach trees and a couple of purebred bulls--I can't recollect what kind.

Well, Papa said stay or go, but we are pulling out come July 4th and he figured Jimmy was nineteen and too young a pup to go serious sparking a girl even if she is seventeen. I was seventeen too, but I guess he didn't figure I minded cause there isn't no other boys around and I'd as soon kiss a pig as Jimmy Reed. Ernest and Albert took to teasing him until he jumped on a bare backed pony and rode off mad. He come back and say he's about to marry Miss Ruthanne and her pa says he can live in their bunkhouse for a year and earn the right.

Papa and the boys rounded horses and even took some mustangs until we had most all our herd we knew of. I wanted to break Rose to the bit before we took off, but Papa said there'd be time along the way and I could saddle break her by the time we hit San Angelo which was where he 'spected to settle. Mama asked him once what was there in San Angelo and he couldn't say, and she just laughed and said Henry Arthur your feet is just itchin'. Mama don't mind moving on, she says. All she has done all her life is move. First as a little girl to Oregon, and then around the Northwest Territory with her folks, then with Papa. She says a move is a time for lightening your load and starting things new.

Me and Mama rolled up the dishes in curtains and packed the bedding and quilts that was finished in between her mirror and a real glass window we was taking from out the front wall. All the packing was done and we was pulling out down the road and I couldn't take my eyes off the little house sitting there lonesome looking with that window open like a mouth calling us back. Ahead of us the boys are driving the herd and behind us is our dogs Toobuddy and Bear, running and playing and chasing a rabbit now and then. Papa gave me a can of hoof black to use for writing and I have whittled some quills from our old rooster's tail feathers. He said he never saw a body more set on writing letters than me.

We drifted the herd towards the town of Prescott and started down the long mountain through the black canyon then out across the big Salt river valley. It took eight days cause the wagon broke a axle and we had to send back to Prescott before we was far out of town. It was only the beginning and I started to have this holler feeling and kept dreaming of that house with the open mouth calling us. Mama I says, its like its a bad sign. These is my Words
The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901
. Copyright © by Nancy Turner. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 199 )
Rating Distribution

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(145)

4 Star

(37)

3 Star

(6)

2 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 66 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 24, 2000

    Highly recommended!

    This is one of my all time favorite books. I have recommended it to everyone. Sarah Prine is a heroine of the first water.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 29, 2010

    An awesome story!

    I have listened to the audiobook and read it too and I think this is an absolute wonderful story. I highly recommend it.

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  • Posted December 26, 2010

    Highly recommend

    This is a woman's book with all the insight and emotions of a girl growing into a woman. Her descriptive journal of her covered wagon journey through the west and back lets you see her grow from a young girl to a woman and all she goes through.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2010

    Good read.

    Great story about an independent and capable pioneer woman. Recommended for modern day military spouses: This book shows that life with a military husband hasn't changed!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2008

    A compelling novel

    One of the best books I have ever read. It keeps you hooked from the first page.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2008

    A reviewer

    I really enjoyed this book. If it wasn't for my 12 month old I would have never put it down. I feel a strong attachment to her characters and I am going to recommend it to all of my friends and family.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2007

    Fantastic!!!

    I just finished this book...for the 10th time. I love it. I read it every chance I get (usually between other books). It is such an easy read, I can finish it in under a day (and that is saying something because I don't have the longest attention span). I wish everyone I knew would read These is my Words, I know they would love it. My recommendation: reread it, it is even better the second time!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2007

    utterly amazing and beautiful!

    I absolutely loved this book. It was one of the most touching books I have ever read, and one of the best coming-of-age stories mixed with a passionate love story at the end of the 19th century in the west. It has a very nice balance of action/adventure, drama, and love, and is perfect for all ages. It is one of the best historical fiction novels I have read, and I have read many. I highly recommend this novel.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2007

    If You Love Historical Fiction...

    I highly recommend this book! What I liked most about this book, besides the descriptive setting, was the heroine, Sarah Prine. You witness through Sarah's writing, her progression from a sheltered young adult to a strong, capable woman in the late 1800's. I got an insight into what it was like in the Arizona Territory during this time period (Indians, Mother Nature, wild Tucson, etc). Can't wait to read the next book, 'Sarah's Quilt'!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2007

    Loved the book, love the time period.

    Having grown up with the Laura Ingalls Wilder series and Little House on the Prairie show, I fell in love with reading and learning about life in the 1700 & 1800's...the challenges families and individuals faced to survive and thrive just fascinates me and I continue to wonder how they did it. The same feeling goes for These is My Words. I loved Sarah, and what struck me the most was early on in the book where it says we were use to moving fast and experiencing lots of death. Boy was that an understatment. Yet no matter where they were they had their traditions, their family, their neighbors and their love. They were accepting of neighbors who weren't the same colored skin and who had different religious beliefs as their own. Another thing I picked up on from Sarah was she was smart enough to know the importance of education, the role it played in people's lives even back in those times. I would recommend this to anyone who, like myself, enjoyed the Little House storyline or who just likes to learn how things were long before our own existence in this overly modern, disconnected world.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2006

    One of the best historical novels, period.

    I have never felt strongly enough about anything to write a review, but These Is My Words rises above ordinary books into the extraordinary. This is the best historical novel I have ever read, and that's saying something. Get it, read it, and tell everyone you know about it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2006

    Read it....Share it

    This book is absolutely fantastic. I make everyone I know read it--and they all love it. I only wish I knew more people. Read it. You won't be sorry.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2006

    Fantastic

    If you need your sleep don't read this book. It is impossible to put it down. You'll be reading til wee hours of the morning. I've never read a book where I have felt so many emotions happy, sad, scared, proud, angry. I have passed this book to many friends and family and they have had the same reaction.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2006

    A great gift!

    My sister gave me this book and told me it was the best! She was right! I laughed, I cried - I couldn't put it down and wished it had not ended. I have purchased several as gifts for friends and they spread the word! A GREAT BOOK!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2005

    THIS IS A PAGE TURNER

    I have reread this book several times because the author has written about a female character who is 'fully developed' and leads an independent, adventurous life and who ultimately marries a man who is a true match for her. This book is one of my favorite reads and I am (unfortunately for me) fairly picky about what I read. I love to read books with women as the protagonist and who are true survivors. I've also read almost every book published about the holocaust for that and other reasons. Please do yourself a favor and read this book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2005

    My All-Time Fave!

    This book kept me up way too late and got me up too early. It was very hard to put down. I have passed it around many social circles and have yet to find anyone who did not love it. Nancy Turner catches your attention and keeps it through the end. I found myself dreaming of the characters. I can't say enough about this book. I love it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2005

    Don't miss this book

    I couldn't put this down. I am a new resident to Tucson and have often wondered about the families that settled this area...how brave and strong willed they must have been. I could relate to Sarah when it came to her determination. I would love to know the quilt pattern so I could make it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2005

    Exciting Story Line

    I stumbled on this book and found it was one of my best reads ever! Nancy Turner has a talent for writing with honesty and clarity enterspaced with just a touch of humor. The trials of a pioneer family struggling in the Arizon territories is both realistic and riveting. Can't wait for her next book. I have shared this one with all my family and friends. I am looking forward to the sequel.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2004

    Amazing!

    This book will touch your soul. A friend recommended it to me and I bought it at the last minute. The first 30-40 pages are a hard read if you're squeamish but once the story kicks in, you understand the graphic parts shape who this woman becomes. I see another reviewer mentioned a sequel. I hope it's true. The story leaves off with Sarah at 37, so she has a lot more story to tell and I can't wait to read it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2004

    The most HEARTWRENCHING book anyone will ever read!

    Anyone who has not read this book, especially women, do not know what they are missing!! It is my absolute favourite book of all time... I actually cannot put into words how moving and gripping this book is. I sat, ate, drank, slept with the book until the last page and then i cried because it was over. Never has a book made such an impression on me. Brilliant. You begin to live the characters.. feel Sarah's pain and her joy, hurt when she hurts, laugh when she laughs. Readers should not be put off by the book's somewhat depressing start as I was at first.. it's what shapes the book and gives it it's truth and stark reality. Read it now!

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