These Is My Words
by Nancy E. Turner
Series: Sarah Agnes Prine #1
Published: February 17, 1999
Genres: Adult Fiction, Historical Fiction
Format: Paperback (384 pages)
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.
Short and Sweet Version
An epic romance on par with Gone With the Wind that features a feisty female lead. It made for a great discussion in my book club since it brought up social and women’s issues. The western setting and the journal-style story telling made it an unforgettable read.
Jessica Thinks Too Much Version
Mild spoilers ahead! This spoiler warning is for those very sensitive to any spoilers. Major spoilers look like this > View Spoiler »And then everyone dies!!! Why did you click this link if you haven’t read the book?! Just kidding. Anything about the ending will be hidden in links like this. « Hide Spoiler
These is My Words is an epic western romance starring a wonderful and strong female lead named Sarah. She reminded me a lot of Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind. But I have to say as much as I like Scarlett, I think Sarah has a few things that Scarlett was lacking. Sarah is genuinely kind but never loses her blunt, humorous honesty. When she saves a man who had gotten seriously injured by his horse near her ranch, she says this:
I lifted his head and took away the rags and gave him a pillow. I can make another pillow, I thought, and if he is going to die in my bed he may as well be comfortable.
-Nancy E. Turner, These Is My Words pg 136
I liked Sarah’s gumption and the fact that she stood up for herself. She can defend herself in times of physical danger (which in the wild west, there were a lot) but she also stands up for what she wants, what she thinks, and what she believes. One of my favorite things that Sarah says is the most awesome string of cursing I’ve ever read. I need to remember this line the next time I’m mad.
Low down dirty ornery rotten skunk of a cussed mule-headed soldier!
-Nancy E. Turner, These is My Words pg 106
There is nothing more witty or tough than a pioneer woman. As much as I admire Sarah, I think deep down if I lived in pioneer times I would act more like her sister-in-law who screamed at tarantula spiders and fainted when they circumcised cattle. Sarah just calmly flicked the tarantula out the window and wouldn’t kill it because they eat bugs. I would have killed it. Or burned the house down when I didn’t have the guts to actually kill it. Anyway. One of my favorite parts in the story was when Sarah went to the bank to deposit her money. This was the banker’s reaction to her:
…he had the gall to sniff in my face and tell me to let my husband handle my money and not trouble myself with the confusion of it all.
-Nancy E. Turner, These is My Words pg 301
Sexist pig. When she tells the banker that she doesn’t want to leave her five hundred dollars with someone who finds money “confusing” he suddenly becomes much more accommodating when his eyes light up with dollar signs about that huge amount of money. Then Sarah puts him in his place when she finds out the pitiful interest rate they offer and tells him how she can make much more money by raising cattle or making soap. Then she says this little gem of a line:
In case that’s confusing to you, Mister, it’s called profit. Thank you for your time, and good day.
-Nancy E. Turner, These is My Words pg 302
Sarah’s awesome. Don’t miss out on her story because of the writing. It’s written in a journal style which was hard to read sometimes if I’m being honest. There’s very little dialogue and the journal style is hard to get into since I’m being told how things are instead of being able to imagine them and live them myself. The other thing about journals is the dates, which I most often skipped over and didn’t bother reading. My friend who listened to the audiobook was able to point out when Sarah had stopped writing for years at a time that I hadn’t even noticed. So the dates were a little important to the story but they were so boring to read. It’s just a drawback of the journal style I guess. The grammar is also intentionally bad to give it an authentic western feel which it pulls off pretty well. Still, the poor grammar is difficult to read and I’m glad to say that the grammar improves as the story goes along because Sarah becomes more and more educated. Sarah writes with a western accent and she uses terms that we are no longer familiar with. The grammar, the journal style, and the unfamiliar accent and terms all made it hard to get into at first. This isn’t an easy read for sure but it was a great story that stuck with me. Once I got into it, I was hooked.
The women and social issues that this story brought up made for a good book club discussion. As a group, we were surprised at how similar the problems that Sarah faced were to our own. There are the judgmental, gossiping neighbors that she feels judge and watch her every move. There’s the day when Sarah’s husband asks her to do something and she totally lays into him because she has had enough. I do that and I don’t even have half the problems that a pioneer woman did.
One thing that was drastically different from our own problems was how common death and war were. Children experienced the death of family members quite often. I thought this was a beautiful quote about how children deal with grief.
Children just cannot be sad too long, it is not in them, as children mourn in little bits here and there like patchwork in their lives.
-Nancy E. Turner, These is My Words pg 95
Living in the west was dangerous. Sarah always had a gun with her. She had it with her all the time because she had to use it all the time to defend herself. I even got to the point that I was suspicious of everyone Sarah met. Every time she met someone new I was like, DOES SHE HAVE HER GUN? WHERE IS HER GUN? WHO IS THIS GUY?
I loved the small details about culture that I got to learn and think about. I found the way they built houses fascinating. When Sarah marries Jimmy, he builds a large porch so they can easily expand their house by just adding some walls. Jimmy had her stand in the kitchen so he could build counters exactly her height. I found the idea of a husband custom building a house just for his wife so charming. What a labor of love.
Most of the things I need in my life are relatively cheap and easy to come by. It’s nice to have a reminder that that wasn’t always the case. Pioneers had to completely use up everything. Nothing went to waste, not even old children’s clothes. Sarah receives some old children’s clothes and decides to turn them into a rug. The way she describes what the rug means to her makes me want to value the things I have a little more.
I am making a rag rug with scraps the Maldonados gave me from all their children’s old worn out clothes. I told them what a happy rug it would be as it carries all the children’s laughter with it, and Mrs. Maldonado cried and hugged me and made me eat two huge tamales.
-Nancy E. Turner, These is My Words pg 108
As much as I love the main character and the culture, this book is through and through a romance that will appeal to people who love Gone With The Wind. It’s got an epic time period, a sharp, independent woman, and eventually true love after a few divorces. If Scarlett O’Hara lived in the west, her story would have been a lot like These Is My Words.
The romance starts with trading books for horses. Sarah Prine, the main character, finds a treasure hoard of books on her trek west and she needs horses to haul them. She runs off to Captain Elliot for help, who teases her in the most adorable way. He offers to help if she gives up two of the books. This is Sarah’s reaction to his offer.
“To give that man a book was more than I could stand, but if it meant to have all the others, I just had to do it.”
-Nancy E. Turner, These is My Words pg 45
Aw. Such cute teasing for me to read, but I would have been mad just like Sarah if those were really my books. I loved how the captain watches her reaction to each book he picks up. She agrees too quickly to the sermon book and so he puts it back down. Of course he finds the book she wants the most and takes it.
The captain and Sarah part ways and she ends up marrying someone named Jimmy. All epic romance needs something truly tragic and Sarah’s marriage with Jimmy definitely was. When on his death bed Jimmy confesses to loving his old sweetheart and not Sarah, his wife, it broke my heart. But that event led to one of my favorite parts about the romance with Captain Elliot. When Captain Elliot finds her a while later and tries to date her she emphatically tells him she doesn’t want to date anyone ever again. Her emotional outburst leads her to tears. Sarah’s young daughter, April, naturally thinks that her mom is crying because she has an “owey.” This is the captain’s reaction, which I loved.
He was drilling a hole in my head with his eyes, but he said to April, Yes, honey. Mama’s got owey. Straight through the heart, I’d reckon.
-Nancy E. Turner, These is My Words pg 147
What I love about his reaction is that he understands her. You can tell that he knows she’s been treated badly and he works so hard to show her how much he loves her. And when he proposes to her and says, “I want to be married to you just like you are, spitfire and all. (pg 214)” you can just tell that he loves her the way she is. That’s what true love is to me and I couldn’t put down this book because of it.
Can true love exist in marriages where each spouse depends on the other for survival?
This was an interesting question that my book club brought up. Someone pointed out that in the west where you needed someone to tend the farm and you needed someone just as much to cook the food and make clothes, did a lot of the marriages come about because of need and not because of love? I bet a lot of marriages came about because of that. Then there’s the fact that there weren’t a lot of options to pick from. You get who you get and you don’t throw a fit. I think even in marriages where they married because they more or less had to, that they found true love in a different way. In fact, since they depended on each other so much it can develop a special bond that is unique and deep. What do you think?
Content Rating: Medium, for scenes about sexual violence and rape.
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