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

4.6 234
by Nancy Turner

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A moving, exciting, and heartfelt American saga inspired by the author's own family memoirs, these words belong to Sarah Prine, a woman of spirit and fire who forges a full and remarkable existence in a harsh, unfamiliar frontier. Scrupulously recording her steps down the path Providence has set her upon—from child to determined young adult to loving


A moving, exciting, and heartfelt American saga inspired by the author's own family memoirs, these words belong to Sarah Prine, a woman of spirit and fire who forges a full and remarkable existence in a harsh, unfamiliar frontier. Scrupulously recording her steps down the path Providence has set her upon—from child to determined young adult to loving mother—she shares the turbulent events, both joyous and tragic, that molded her, and recalls the enduring love with cavalry officer Captain Jack Elliot that gave her strength and purpose.

Rich in authentic everyday details and alive with truly unforgettable characters, These Is My Words brilliantly brings a vanished world to breathtaking life again.

Editorial Reviews

Dallas Morning News
“A vivid picture of one woman’s true grit on the frontier.”
The Washington Post
“Incredibly vivid and real and almost as though everything had been found, complete in a box somewhere.”
Omaha World Herald
“Belongs on your must-read list. This novel is a gem.”
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“These Is My Words is an entertaining...at times harrowing...reading experience.”
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)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
P.S. Series
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Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.93(d)
1110L (what's this?)

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.

What People are Saying About This

Tim Bashor
With skill and sensitivity, Turner draws on Sarah Prine's experiences to create her stunning debut novel. It is a powerful adventure and a romantic love story experienced with a passion and yearning by characters whom readers will never forget. These is My Words is in the grand tradition of epic quest novels, yet it is told on a deeply human, personal scale. Its characters are familiar and touching. Opening this book and following Sarah's story day by day is like opening an old trunk in the family attic and finding a treasure.

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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These Is My Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 234 reviews.
Nat-the-Cat More than 1 year ago
I checked this book out from my highschool library. I read it quickly and never had a book (other than Gone with the Wind) made such an impact on me. I laughed and cried... It was wonderful. It made enough of an impact that now, close to 5 years later, I decided to buy a copy and read it again. It meant even more to me now that I am a mother and wife. I would list this as a must read for all women. Go ahead and buy a copy b/c you are gonna want to re-read it, and make sure you have a box of kleenex handy. This book truely is a great read. You won't be disappointed.
princessgabby More than 1 year ago
The early history of the Arizona Territory is captured through the words of young Sarah Agnes Prine's Diary. Barely literate at first, Sara's struggles are recorded through crude, often phonetically spelled entries. As she journeys by wagon train with her family from Arizona to New Mexico and back again, she struggles not only to survive but to educate herself as well. This fictionalized account is based on the author's actual family memoirs and her own great-grandmother, the real Sarah Agnes Prine, whose character lends strength and reality to the tale. Sarah leads us through her triumphs and tribulations from 1881 to 1902; as she battles Indians, banditos, rapists, and train robbers, and survives the rigors of childbirth without medical care. Sarah also records her own inner strength, as she survives the deaths of her beloved younger brother and father, her mother's short bout with insane grief, a loveless first marriage, the founding of her own successful ranch and soap business, and most of all her developing love and passionate second marriage to a handsome Army Captain named Jack Elliot. This is a phenomenal tale, filled with heart-stopping action and emotional intensity. It begins on the trail as Sarah and her friends are bathing in the river where they're attacked by very bad men who begin to rape one of her friends, Sarah, knowing help is too far off, runs for her gun which is back at the camp, she hops on her horse and rides like an avenging angel to save her friends and kill the bad guys. Sarah is not only a crack shot, she is tough and resourceful as well, when a rattlesnake manages to make its way onto her porch to curl up around her toddler, she manages to talk her child into holding very still while she takes aim at the rattlers head rising above her baby's shoulder, and with all the fear in a mother's heart, she manages to shoot the snake. Sarah had to be tough to survive the Wild West, but she looses none of her femininity, it pours through her writings when she speaks of her second husband Jack and her love of her children and extended family as well. I would recommend this book to anyone; it has enough action to enthrall a man and just the right amount of passion to hold a woman's heart. And unlike some other novels of romance, this one leaves the real passion to the imagination, rather than graphically relating it to the reader.
Abbie09 More than 1 year ago
I don't know how to express how much I loved this book. At first I wasn't excited about reading it (I got it as a gift and only started reading it to be polite), but after the first 20 pages I was hooked. And it only got better from there. The synopsis does not do this book justice. If I heard about a book that was written about a woman in 1900 Arizona, I wouldn't be overly excited to read it. But this book it more than that, it is a wonderful adventure featuring the most interesting female character I have ever read. Sarah is the epitome of a strong woman. She conquers all of the obstacles she faces and holds her family together in the process. I think that this book should be mandatory for all of your friends who need to escape their everyday lives. When I read this book (which I have done at least 10 times) I forget about the mundane and am transported to a time where everyday was a fight for your life. My favorite aspect of the book is the relationship between Sarah and Jack. They are perfect for each other and one of my favorite couples in literature. I recommend this novel to anyone looking to escape the ordinary and fall in love with some amazing characters. Just give it a chance and you won't be disappointed!!!
Pepper94 More than 1 year ago
I received "Sarah's Quilt" as a gift in my bookclub Christmas gift exchange. Since it is the second in the series, I bought "Tis These Words" for myself. I very much enjoyed it. I liked getting away from the Michigan snow to the Southwest and learning about the late 1880's. I liked the journal writing style and thought her characters were great. Don't look at the descriptions for the other books in the series until you have read the ones that proceed them. Enjoy the book.
Phroglover More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this novel probably because I have always been interested in diaries and journals of the westward expansion. From the first crude, illiterate entries I became engrossed in Sarah Prine's life. Every detail/trauma/experience rings true - probably because the author's grandmother was the blueprint. I have recommended it numerous times.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Everyone in our book club loved this review. We're all avid readers and really enjoyed reading about a character who loved books even more than we did.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was given this book to read after I had surgery and had to lay in bed for a few days. I am always nervous to start a novel I usually hate them or I dissapear for a few days until I am done. I have never heard of this book and was reluctant to read.

It blew me away, I traveled back in time to a place of adventure and knowing by the appearance of a person if they are good or bad. I didn't want to come back to reality. I haven't cried this hard from a book, I am a little embarrassed.

I have taken on a new appreciation for our life styles we are spoiled people. I loved this inspiring book and will recommend it to everyone I know.

When does the movie come out? haha.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I fell in love with Jack right along with Sarah;and was inspired to learn more about the west
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
Goldman1972 More than 1 year ago
Absolutely loved this book. It was like a Hallmark movie only better. I cried, laughed, and was romanced by its tale of Sarah and her family. They endured hardship, death, adventure in their journey. I have recommended it to all my friends and they loved the book also.
Suzanne Boyer More than 1 year ago
The series of this book, Sarah's Quilt and The Star Garden is my favorite of all times. I just didn't want it to ever end. Nancy Turner does an amazing job in reaching out and grabbing your heart and making you feel like you are there in every chapter.
KathyA52 More than 1 year ago
I loved, loved, loved this book. If you're a lover of historical fiction - especially early American history - you'll love this touching story of Sarah's early Western travels and life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of my all-time favorite books. I have read it numberous times and enjoy it with each reading. I have also given it as a gift, and the recipients have loved it too. The two follow up books are great as well.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read this book three times since it was recommended to me and am tempted to read it once again, as I have just barely finished it. I didn't want it to end! What an amazing and admirable person Sarah Prine is. You want so badly for Sarah and Jack to be together- forever. I just can't say enough about how much I loved this book! My all time favorite!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Along the lines of Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove, one of my favorite, if not favorite book, this book ranks along side it. It rates a solid 5 stars! An adventurious love story that takes place in the West with smiles and tears, beauty and gore. I wanted it to go on and on. Such a beautiful story! Much love to the author. May we please have more of your beautiful work.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This author is gifted! I am now on the third book in this series. I have thoroughly enjoyed this ongoing story. Highly recommended...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a wonderful read, i hated to see it end! I will miss each character and carry Sarah with me for a long time. This is the kind of book that creates reading magic!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Absolutely loved this book! The author made me feel like I personally was there. I loved both Jack and Sarah's characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of those stories that pull you in and stay with you after you're done.
ribi More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! I have purchased the next two in the series.
look4nook More than 1 year ago
I'm a reader that has to be grabbed with the story immediately and that is exactly what this little book does. Gives a great insight of what the western pioneers endured. Nancy Turner's writing makes you feel like you are living right inside the story. For me, very few writers can do that. This book is highly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I could not put this book down. When I was done I wanted more and more.
dogloverVC More than 1 year ago
I especially liked the journal style of writing. The author made you feel like you intimately knew the characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I wanted to read it again the moment i finished it! I truly felt like I knew Sarah and Jack, and like they were friends I didnt want to say goodbye to. I will be reading this book again.