A nice girl should never go anywhere without a loaded gun and a big knife.
Inspired by her own family's memoirs, Nancy Turner has brought to life one of the strongest female characters since Scarlet O'hara in Gone with the Wind. In Sarah Prine, a woman born and raised in the Arizona Territories in the late 1800's, we have an unlikely heroine of the ages, as we follow her teenage years on the harsh pioneer trails, her dedication to improving herself by learning to read and write, her ability to take on extreme challenges, death even, straight on in the face, and eventually while she raises her own family during a time when being on your own really meant just that. A time when you did what you had to to survive, or you died. It was as simple as that.
If the center of this story is Sarah Prine, then the biggest star that revolves around her is Captain Jack Elliott, probably the best male lead character I've ever had the pleasure of reading about. And not because he's perfect. Because he isn't, in fact he's far from it. He loves Sarah, yet remains ever more who he is, and I liked him better for it. Their relationship was engrossing to the point of distraction, it was heart felt, overwhelming, tender beyond words. I shudder even now as my mind returns to it again. It's so good, it lingers long after it's gone, like the hovering scent of a really mouthwatering chocolate chip cookie that you'd eaten hours before.
Turner has said she pictured a younger Sam Elliott as the Captain. Is it really hard to see why? This guy is the quintessential cowboy. And that mustache? Oh my!
This is a really good book. I liked it for a multitude of reasons. I come from pioneer stock on both sides of my family so I could appreciate the honest telling of the sacrifice and hardship that went into the making of the early American West. Turner doesn't sugar coat these experiences in the least here. The diary format took some getting used to, but it was faithful to the time period, and remained that way until the end of the book. No dialogue in quotes here, and for me it made the writing more effective, like a real diary. Like I really was perusing a dusty and yellowed slice of history. Maybe something I'd found hidden in my attic in an old rust-covered trunk.
When asked if she had further reading suggestions, Nancy Turner has said:
The best book is one that ends with an almost audible gasp, an immediate twinge, that "oh, no, it's really over," combined with the hollowness of letting go, and a slightly bitter, envious voice from somewhere that murmurs, "I wish I'd written that!"
Here here, Ms. Turner.
(Thanks for the quotes Suzette!)
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