Book Reviews Books for Adults

These Is My Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine by Nancy E. Turner

9.5 of 10: Go read this book. I haven’t put together my list of the top books I’ve read this year, but there is absolutely no question in my mind that These is my Words will be on it. This is the book I’ll recommend for a long time when people ask me for a title. 

I almost cannot contain myself long enough to write this post. I loved this book. There are likely not enough gushing, rhapsodic words in my vocabulary to talk about this book, but oh, I intend to make a valiant effort.

Before I’d even finished the book, I was flipping back to reread my favorite sections. And then the very same day I finished the book, I was at the library and I absolutely had to pick up their copy and reread my favorite bits. People, I had a copy of this book at home, and I still had to do this.

The very first month that I did Tell Me What to Read, Emily suggested These is my Words. The next two months, Diana Banana did the same. And then my mom recommended it.

The month my mom recommended it but didn’t win the favor of the random integer generator, she commented saying, “I will have to send you a copy of MY book and then I can cut in line.” 

And in delightful Mom fashion, she did just that. The book arrived, no joke, the next day (she must know someone).

The front cover says “Jack and Sarah are as delicious a couple as Rhett and Scarlett.” Well. Count me in.

It took me a few weeks to get to it, as October was a fairly bad reading month reading for me (if it wasn’t on audio CD, I probably didn’t read it), but when I went to Utah this last weekend, I packed it, hoping to force myself to get started. I read my other four books on the flight out, and so on the flight home, I opened it up.

My mom had warned me that the first 30 pages were a bit slow and they were (although not overly so). I read them, then lay down to take a nap (hello, open middle row and two warm coats). When I woke up, I started reading and then I could not put this book down. I read until we landed, read through our layover, all the way through our next flight and while we waited for the airport security people to come jump our dead car battery in the Manchester Airport parking lot.

I read at school on Monday morning before my classes arrived and finished it during my lunch break, trying desperately not to let tears run down my face since my aide was sitting at her desk only a foot away from me.

The book is written in diary form, which definitely made me not want to read it, but it actually worked well and I didn’t really think twice about it after the first few pages. So if you’re inclined to dismiss this book on that count, well, just put that thought out of your head.

The diary is the property of Sarah Prine, beginning when she is about 16 or 17 and follows her family’s life in the Arizona Territories. Her father, who has the kind of wandering spirit I associate with Pa Ingalls of the Little House books, is determined to set out for a new life in the Arizona Territories, but pretty much every bad thing you can imagine happens and eventually they join up with a wagon train to take them back to a place they passed during their journeys (also in the Arizona Territories). The leader of the wagon train is Captain Elliot and Sarah by turns admires him and despises him. Of course she does.

They settle back down and begin their new lives there. I read this book with very little knowledge of the plot and I’d hate to not let you do the same – it’s so fun to watch things unfold, some things that you expect, and others that catch you totally off guard (if by “you,” I mean “me”).

This is good historical fiction, and I could talk at length about that, but what I really want to talk about (of course) is the fact that this book is a seriously good romance. The Rhett and Scarlett reference might make you think it’ll just be the tearing-your-hair-out-in-angst variety of romance, and there is a bit of that, but things are significantly happier than they are for Rhett and Scarlett (although this book did leave me wanting to go back and read Gone with the Wind again).

Sarah is the most wonderful heroine you can possibly imagine. She is strong and smart and quick on her feet and desperate to get an education in whatever way available. The book starts out with some fairly  poor writing because Sarah is just not that educated and it’s fun to watch her writing improve over the years as she reads more and gets snatches of education here and there.

There are two more books about Sarah, and I’ve picked up the next one from the library, but I’m almost not ready to open it – this book could have stood completely on its own.

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t buy a lot of books and I think some people have taken that to mean that I don’t like owning books. It’s not that – it’s just that I read a lot of mediocre books that I have no desire to clutter up my shelves with. But books I love? Oh, I am glad to have my own copy of, ones that I can lend out or reread in the middle of the night or flip through when I just need to read ten pages of something I love.

This is a book I am so so glad to have my own precious copy of.

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  • Reply Douglas Carl November 5, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    I'll read it. Good review, thanks.

  • Reply Matt, Chelsea & Isabel November 5, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    I absolutely love this book as well. However, I never read the next 2 books because my sister warned me that they weren't as good. Maybe not the best reason, but I was satisfied with where These is my Words left off the plot and really didn't want to find out more about her life after the fact…make sense? So, consider yourself warned if the next 2 books don't live up to this one…

  • Reply the Danosaur November 5, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    This is also one of my very favorite books. Sarah is my hero. It was recommended to me also to wait a while before picking up the sequels.

  • Reply Anonymous November 5, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    I too was told that the sequels aren't worth reading. I can be happy with TIMW being a stand alone.

    So glad you LOVED it!

  • Reply Karina November 5, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    Me and Steve ARE Jack and Sarah! ha, ha. Lauree Strong and I highly recommended it too. It's our fave 🙂

  • Reply Karina November 5, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    It's true that Sarah's Quilt isn't nearly as good, and I didn't even know there was a third one, but I don't care. I just re-read the first one 🙂

  • Reply Strong Family - November 5, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    Yes, Karina and I love this book. I'm glad you liked it. It's in my top 3 for sure. I have to say I don't love the sequels as much. They're fine, but the first is by far the best! 🙂

  • Reply Linda November 5, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    This is on the shelf at my library and I am going to get it! With your blog on my reader, I never really have the excuse of, "I just don't know what to read" do I? Thanks! 🙂

  • Reply Steph November 5, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    Oh, I'm so glad you finally read this book! I loved it, and I was sure you would, as well. I was bawling as I finished the book, but luckily, I was alone in my bed, with my husband at work, so no one saw!! I'm going to echo other's feelings that you might not want to read the sequels. I felt a little let down and wished that I had only read the first.

  • Reply Nicole November 5, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    I bought this book many years ago, read the first chapter then put it down and haven't picked it up since. All the deaths in chapter one discouraged me. Now I guess I had better read it!

  • Reply Tina's Blog November 5, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    I better go hunt for mine – it is on a pile somewhere and your review makes me want to move it up on the TBR pile.

  • Reply Jenny November 5, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    I'm on a waiting list for this book at my library. Turn yours back in so I'll get mine faster!!

  • Reply Miriam November 5, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    Yup, this is a good one!

  • Reply Emily November 5, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    My mom sent me a copy of this book too because she was so excited for me to read it! And oh I adored it, although I had the same reservations at first that you did! I want to curl up with it and read it again now. Let me know if you like the second one. I've been scared to pick it up because how can it compare to the first one??

  • Reply tootie November 5, 2009 at 11:26 pm

    Ok, you've convinced me. I will definitely have to get this from the library!

  • Reply Allison November 6, 2009 at 12:14 am

    Ditto! I read this book last summer and loved it. I was hoping you'd get to read it. You are quite the reader. I'm inspired to read more…

  • Reply Angiegirl November 6, 2009 at 12:14 am

    I'm actually embarrassed I haven't read this one yet. Every woman in my family loved it. Clearly I need to get cracking. 🙂

    Lovely review, Janssen.

  • Reply Peaceful Reader November 6, 2009 at 4:37 am

    I also loved this book. My mother-in-law recommended it to me several years ago and I couldn't put it down. Great review!!

  • Reply Mary November 6, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    We read it for book club a few years ago and everyone loved it. The romance between Sarah and Capt. Elliot is so yummy. I didn't like the 2nd book nearly as much and I haven't read the 3rd. Is there a 3rd? I think there is.

  • Reply David and Sammy November 6, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    Too funny. That was our Oct book for bookclub. I LOVED it. It's funny that as soon as I finished I thought I'll suggest this to Janssen for her next What To Read, she'll love it- I even checked your goodreads to make sure you hadn't already read it.
    Definitely not what I expected from the title though…

  • Reply Sherry January 4, 2010 at 6:22 am

    I've begun my blog post with the list of books I've read in 2010, and this is the first one on it. I linked to this post because I think you offered a much better description of the plot than I possibly could have. Golly, I loved this book, and it kind of surprised me how much I loved it since I don't ordinarily go for such novels. We shall have to discuss on IM tomorrow.

  • Reply SharingMommyMoments March 16, 2015 at 5:20 pm

    I finished reading this book last night and I'm sad that it is over. I checked it out at my library because of your recommendation and I am glad I did. What made this book extra special is that I'm currently living in Arizona and I am familiar with many of the cities mentioned in the book. I can picture their journeys in the dry desert and am very familiar with the heat of the summers. Thank you again for sharing your reviews. You are very appreciated. Blessings to you from Phoenix, AZ.

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