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Monday, June 23, 2008

Arizona Dreamin'


Foggy, wet morning in meadow, woods and orchard. Cherries are starting to look like cherries, though still very green.

THESE IS MY WORDS: THE DIARY OF SARAH AGNES PRINE, 1881-1901, ARIZONA TERRITORIES, by Nancy E. Turner. NY: Harper, 1998.

Outdoors by 6:30, I came inside to finish THESE IS MY WORDS when Sarah and I got back. (Sarah my dog—Sarah the protagonist of the novel. Both are irresistible, no-nonsense females with beautiful souls.) Although I know there are two more novels featuring Sarah Prine, it was hard to read the last few chapters and close this particular book, since later she will be older, and her life will be different, and I have been loving the experience of living her life vicariously while she is so young and strong. But maybe she won’t be all that much older in the second book. Some hint dropped by Stephanie, who recommended this book to me, makes me think that. It doesn’t matter. I’ll go on to SARAH’S QUILT later this summer.

At the end of the paperback edition are questions for book club discussion, an interview with the author, and background on how she came to write this novel, all of which (for a change) I read with interest. THESE IS MY WORDS began as a community college writing class assignment—a short story—but then “got out of hand.” Besides the story’s length, Turner’s switch from nonfiction to fiction (the main character was inspired by her great-grandmother) and the incorporation of meaningful historical dates and incidents necessitated serious rewriting. Add to that what she calls a “serious case of dyslexia,” and you’ve got one very hard-working writer who did a lot more than fall off a log to get published. “I’ve never published a single word that hasn’t been reconsidered at least eight times.”

Here's something that surprised me: Nancy Turner lists GONE WITH THE WIND as one of the most important books in her life, the first adult book she read (and I would LOVE to know what an eight-year-old made of that story!). Stephanie Mills also loved GONE WITH THE WIND. Maybe I was too old when I read it. None of the characters seemed to learn or grow, and that frustrated me. I'll take Sarah Prine over Scarlett O'Hara any day.

Is every girl a princess or a pioneer? In girlish dreams, I was always a cowgirl. "What about a gypsy princess?" David asked. "Princesses just wear jewels and sit around. They don't get do anything!" Really! Who would want a life like that?

2 comments:

Maiya Willits said...

GONE WITH THE WIND was the first adult book I read, also, at about 8or 10 years old. I didn't *like* Scarlet per se, but was captivated by the whole story.

P. J. Grath said...

The story is captivating, for sure. But now that I'm thinking about this, it occurs to me for the first time that it isn't only the characters not learning and growing but their complete inability to read one another. Rhett and Scarlett never figure out one another's feelings. Melanie is so taken in by Scarlett that she hasn't a clue as to Scarlett's feelings for her--or for her husband. Ashley is just as bad. Wouldn't you think after all they went through they would begin to have a glimmer of realization? Oh, well, it isn't that kind of story, right? I was in my 20's when I read it, so maybe you and Nancy Turner were just the right age for it, after all.