The Star Garden
Turner shares with us another episode in the life of Sarah Prine, a widow living in the Arizona Territory in 1906. Based on the tales told by the author’s great-grandmother, the book shows the staggering difficulties and the simple joys of being a pioneer. Knowing something of this history of my own country, it was interesting to learn what a difference a hostile climate makes to the ease of pioneering.
Poor Sarah now faces bankruptcy, having survived drought, severe storms and the loss of her cattle to rustlers, who included her own nephew. Struggling to put food on the table, she goes out shooting quail and rescues the passengers from the Wells Fargo stagecoach, which had gone over a cliff. This rescue and the people she saves come as aid later in the story, but at the beginning they are just more mouths to feed. The daily grind, violent neighbours, the dicey weather, and her own personal worry about marrying or not marrying that helpful, kind man, Udell Hanna, put Sarah under great strain. When her son marries the violent neighbour’s daughter, her troubles multiply tenfold. Pioneer life in Arizona Territory is obviously never dull, and, although violent, is full of happy episodes with family and friends.
For me, knowing little about American pioneers in the Southwest, it was an interesting read. I did find the laconic dialogue trying at times, but this seems to have been a trait of all the characters, and perhaps people did have to bottle up feelings and words when the elements were so against them. For those who have followed Sarah’s experiences in the previous books, this will be a must read.