Book #1 in Nancy Turner‘s trilogy introduces the reader to a young girl who matures into a strong independent woman while traveling by wagon train and settling in the Arizona Territory.
In the year 1881, calamities come in many forms: unfortunate accidents, Indian attacks and sickness plague the travelers as well as the unscrupulous bandits and ruffians who meet them at every turn of the wagon’s wheels.
Because 17 year-old Sarah Prine is uneducated, nearly illiterate, her early diary entries are peppered with spelling and grammatical errors making a slow, often painful reading process.
But when she acquires a wagon load of books, her education takes off as does her writing ability.
The author’s use of first-person narrative draws you into the story laying open Sarah’s thoughts, pain, despair, and insecurities for all to experience first hand.
One reviewer commented, “I cared so much that I dreaded turning the pages for fear of the horrific fate that could befall any of the characters at any time”.
The reader cheers as Sarah overcomes the obstacles barring her way to love, marriage and establishing a family in the far flung, often lawless, western territories of 1881-1902 while always, always waiting for disaster to strike as it so often does.
Readers recommended Sarah’s Quilt, the continuing story of an extraordinary pioneer woman and her 3-year struggle with drought on the family ranch.
Book #3, The Star Garden, finds Sarah, at 43, with grown sons, and the center of a large, unruly family. Living in a house built by the man she refused to marry and courted by her neighbor, Sarah is not so sure she wants to be a wife again.
Discussion Questions for These Is My Words follow:
1. Suggest why an illiterate girl would find it so important to keep a diary of her Arizona trip and life afterward.
2. Explain, if you can, why the Lawrence family shunned Sarah after she saved the lives of daughters, Savannah, Alice and Ulyssa.
3. If you had to debate the issue of the pioneers fighting the Indians to save their own lives and the lives of their families, which side would you take and why?
4. Whenever Sarah measures up against her sister-in-law, Savannah, she always finds herself wanting. Agree? Disagree?
5. A genuine thirst for knowledge compels Sarah to learn and grow as an individual. Who helps her? What does she learn and from whom?
6.Talk about Sarah’s marriages. What makes her attractive to Jimmy Reed? Jack Elliot?
7.What ultimately brings Jack and Sarah together? Sarah’s transformation? Jack’s transformation?
8. Any idea why Jack refused to resign her army commission leaving Sarah and the children alone and vulnerable?
9. Does Sarah’s picture of the West challenge or confirm your ideas of life on the frontier? Think of the many losses, the hardships and how the settlers surmounted them. Are we, in modern times, as tenacious and courageous as Sarah and her contemporaries?
10. Although Sarah’s story is fictional (there is no actual diary according to the author), it is based on stories about the author’s great grandmother. Do you feel the story is realistic or highly romanticized? Is Sarah credible? If so, what makes her story convincing?
11. Would you read Sarah’s Quilt or The Star Garden? Why or Why not?