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The Able McLaughlins

3.64  ·  Rating Details ·  797 Ratings  ·  59 Reviews
This neglected novel tells the story of Wully McLaughlin coming home from the Civil War to find his sweetheart pregnant with another man’s child.
Paperback, 262 pages
Published April 1st 2007 by Cherokee Publishing Company (GA) (first published 1923)
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I'm reading every Pulitzer Prize winning novel, in order, and reached 1924's The Able McLaughlins. With a deep breath, and gritted teeth, I started a book I'd never heard of, that I was sure I wouldn't like. I thought the title was stupid and the plot didn't interest me.
But, as it turned out, I judged The Able McLaughlins too fast.
The novel takes place in a midwestern Scottish farming community during the 1860s. The McLaughlin family's oldest son Wully has just returned from the Civil War ready
Roxanne Russell
Jan 16, 2013 Roxanne Russell rated it really liked it
Shelves: pulitzer-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mimi Stamper
Jan 14, 2011 Mimi Stamper rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. The writing was a bit archaic and full of Scottish dialect, but once you got past that, it was beautiful. The story follows a group of families from Scotland who settled the American prairies in the 1860s. The heartache of ten kids in a one-room cabin and endless days of back-breaking labor are offset by the beauty of the prairies and the love the families share and the joy of freedom and possibility. Hard as it was, the freedom of this country and the ability to own land made ...more
Apr 07, 2010 Steven rated it it was amazing
This book has great characters and great descriptions of the setting of the novel. I love the opening sentence of the book. The book is set in Iowa during pioneer days and gives a good view of what life was like at that time. A refreshing read as it is devoid of edgy elements that writers seem to think must be included in today's novels.
Melissa (ladybug)
Nov 15, 2011 Melissa (ladybug) rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
I loved this book. I started to read it and found myself having a hard time putting it down. It was really descriptive of what the Civil War and the aftermath for one family was like. I liked the fact that Wully didn't let what happened to Christie stop him from loving, marrying and caring for her and her son. Wully tried his hardest to care for her and I believe he was successful in the end.
Jun 18, 2012 Zorro rated it it was ok
1924.....Hmmm. Virginia Woolf was writing at this time. Americans Fitzgerald,Hemmingway, Faulkner hmmmm....and this was the best the US could choose??? Sweet story.
Feb 02, 2016 Jessica rated it it was ok

I'm reading my way through the Pulitzers
- and my guess is most people who have read this book are undertaking the same project as me.

I have a few bones to pick with Margaret Wilson. First, I do not understand her decision to sneak in references to future events at completely random moments. For example: "What he saw there made so great an impression on him, that fifty-seven years later, when that stranger’s grandson was one of the disheartened veterans of the World War who came to his office
Nomadic SA Chick's Book Reviews

Wully is in love with Christie, but doesn't realize it he's about tp return to the fight in the Civil War. Wully promises Christie that as soon as he returns they will get married and start their lives together. Christie is excited about her future. Though her father is recently deceased, and her mother is severely depressed, Christie carries on with her days, caring for her younger siblings, and waiting for Wully's return. Wully is shocked he he comes home
Jul 25, 2014 Jimmy rated it liked it
Shelves: pulitzers
While I would say that this Pulitzer winner is mediocre writing, I can also say that I liked the story. It's one of those rather idyllic prairie/frontier immigrant farming stories that seemed to have captivated so many writers of the 1920s and 30s, albeit a story centered around a really tragic event. Reminded me of Willa Cather's "My Antonia" and Edna Ferber's "So Big," among others. What I'm really appreciating about my project of reading all the Pulitzer fiction winners is that I'm getting an ...more
The easiest way to summarize this likeable melodrama would be to focus on the male protagonist, Wully McLaughlin. The oldest boy in a family fairly recently immigrated from Scotland to Iowa, Wully is a reluctant Union soldier who comes home after the war's end, discovers the sweetheart he had been dreaming of marrying has been raped by another man (Wully's cousin), and then begins a family with this dark cloud of sexual abuse behind him.

However, I think a better summary would focus on the older
Joyce Lagow
Apr 20, 2010 Joyce Lagow rated it liked it
Pulitzer Prize winner for 1924.[return][return]The story of a Scottish community in Iowa, it is mainly the story of Wullie and Chirstie, two young people who fall in love and get married but not before Chirstie suffers a scarring experience that affects her marriage.[return][return]It s a simple story and it s told in simple prose. I ve read reviews that compare Wilson to Cather, but as far as I am concerned, Cather s prose is far more sophisticated and flows more easily. Still, Wilson tells her ...more
Jan 03, 2008 Linda rated it liked it
I love reading Pulitzer Prize winners for what they reveal about what was on the United States' mind, so to speak. Especially because they often seem to be set in the past, and it can be very interesting to see what the past (in this case, 1924) thought about the past past (in this case, prairie life around the end of the Civil War).

This book is a simple story, simply told, with a surprisingly thoughtful ending and a bit of an interesting glimpse into the frontier prairie life. It has an old-fa
Jun 08, 2012 Katherine rated it it was ok
Shelves: pulitzers-read, 2012, own
I wanted to like this book, I tried, I really did.

After seeking out and purchasing a rather pricey used copy (because not a single edition was to be found within my entire inter-library loan system) it only made sense to give it every opportunity to prove itself. Sadly, it turned out to be a disappointment. The writing was so awkward and choppy and the characters acted inconsistently enough that I found it difficult to conceive how it won the 1924 Pulitzer for fiction. What is perfectly clear,
May 22, 2016 Sbussey rated it really liked it
From 1915, the account of a Scottish immigrant family settling in Iowa when it was still the frontier. Not sure why I never heard of this book or this author, but I thought this was surprising. It was easy to read, had strong characters (especially strong female characters, for the time period), represents a historical moment. It might not be strong on lists because it is more realist/naturalist, when the novel form is shifting to modernism. But I would gladly assign this over "The Octopus" or a ...more
May 26, 2016 Diego rated it really liked it
The characters are lovable, funny, and enduring. The book is a drama - a young man promptly marries his pregnant sweetheart (there's more to it) to save her from the shame of a shotgun wedding and spare her from the scorn of her neighbors - but the focus is much more centered on this community of immigrants, their mannerisms, and how they all get along. It’s the relationships of the people involved that bring this story to life and give it its sharp comic edge. I enjoyed it very much.
Aug 11, 2011 Christine rated it really liked it
A nice gentle story about a man returning to his family after the Civil War that won the Pulitzer Prize in 1924. Not a heavy book, like many Pulitzer novels are... more like Little House on the Prairie for grownups. Enjoyable if you can find it, but the book is scarce. I couldn't even find a copy at Powell's, wound up borrowing it from the library.
Dec 27, 2011 Katie rated it it was amazing
I may be weird, but I loved this book!! It was definitely a different kind of writing style than we are used to, but kind of reminded me of Conrad Richter (who I happen to really like!). I thought that Wully and Cristie learned and grew so much together as they were married and I loved how they changed by the end of the story. And the mother-in-law figure is sooo fantastic. loved it!

Feb 14, 2012 Carolyn rated it really liked it
A great story! I love when good conquers evil and when love conquers all! Great characters!
Mar 02, 2017 Judy rated it it was amazing
A Pulitzer Prize winner for 1924. Excellent for its writing, for description of the unbroken plains and of the people who emigrated from Scotland to settle here. The plot is an unusual love story, but also a story of forgiveness. It is a glimpse of a thriving plains family and community at the turn of the 20th century.
Mar 03, 2017 Kenneth rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, pulitzer
Not the greatest of books, but there's a great deal of emotion and power in the last 70-80 pages that ties the book up nicely.
Christopher MacMillan
Aug 04, 2011 Christopher MacMillan rated it it was ok

Wully McLaughlin comes proudly marching home from the Civil War, only to find his sweetheart is pregnant with another man, in Margaret Wilson's forgotten Pulitzer Prize-winner.

This story, about a Scottish commune in the farmlands of Iowa, features characters full of quirks and charms: they are simple and happy, with a common sense approach to matters, and a natural striving for gaiety in life's smaller things. This lifestyle, however, is shaken by the secret that Wully and his new w
The time of this Pulitzer Prize winning story is toward the conclusion of the Civil War. Families are receiving notification about the death, injury or capture of their loved ones.

Wully McLaughlin returns to his parents' farm after escaping from the Confederates where he had been taken prisoner. He thinks about the war and finding his brother's body after one battle. Some of this part of the novel reminds me of "The Red Badge of Courage."

While Wully is home, he visits the farm of Christie McNair
Mark Oppenlander
Oct 18, 2015 Mark Oppenlander rated it it was ok
Wully McLaughlin is the son of Scottish immigrants living in the great plains of the US in the late 19th century. Returning from the Civil War, he is ready to marry his childhood sweetheart, Chirstie McNair, only to find that she has been violated and impregnated by the community's ne'er-do-well, Peter Keith. Wully forces Peter to leave the area under pain of death and then decides to marry Chirstie, accepting paternity of the child, thus (partially) hiding her shame. But when Peter wanders back ...more
Scott Cox
How many novels portray Presbyterian Psalm-singing Covenanter Scotch immigrants to America? Margaret Wilson’s 1924 Pulitzer Prize winning novel does. The setting is rural post-war (Civil War) Iowa. The drama includes intra-family tensions and dark secrets – perhaps percolating into a future Iowan saga: Jane Smiley’s “A Thousand Acres”? Although a captivating read, this novel seemed disjointed. For example, one of the more interesting characters, Glasgow-reared mother-in-law Barbara McNair, provi ...more
May 02, 2013 Ben rated it liked it
Shelves: pulitzer
Pulitzer 1924 - The Able McLauglins is the story of a group of Scottish immigrants in Iowa during the Civil War. The eldest son returns home to let his parents know that his brother has been killed - he falls in love with the neighbor girl and it is the story of their early marriage. This book tends to follow a similar path as that of its contemporaries. The story of a family struggling with its outward appearance while inwardly they are in turmoil. Wully, the Civil War vet, wants nothing more t ...more
Sep 07, 2010 Djrmel rated it really liked it
This book is a literary example of Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr's epigram, "the more things change, the more they stay the same". Written in 1924, set in post-Civil War Iowa, the McLaughlins are a family of Scotch immigrants. The story begins with one of the oldest sons returning to the homestead for a short R&R and falling head over heals in love with a girl from a nearby farm. When the war ends, he returns to the family with dreams of starting a life with her, one just like his parent's, bu ...more
Don't know why I just stumbled upon this book now; it was a good read, especially recommend for those readers who are Civil War history buffs.

There are many reasons it won the 1924 Pulitzer prize. The depiction of the Scottish characters is priceless, and probably more accurate than you would find in more recent writings. Prairie life was hard, and so were the pioneers, there was little romance in the day to day lives, marriages could be arranged for practical reasons, babies and children died f
Alex Mendiola
May 08, 2016 Alex Mendiola rated it really liked it
A well crafted if dated portrait of a Scottish Immigrant community in Iowa. The main character returns for a brief respite from the front lines of the Civil War digging graves to visit his family after escaping from a military prison. Just as he is set to leave to rejoin his unit, he meets and falls in love with Chirstie. While away at war, he corresponds with her about their pending nuptials. Upon his return, he discovers she recoils in fear from him. While they eventually wed, the secret trage ...more
Apr 03, 2007 Christine rated it liked it
This one won the Pulitzer prize in 1924, although I doubt it would make the cut any more. The writing style is easy to read but doesn't have the that lush texture I associate with really great authors. It is the story of a scottish family during and after the Civil War. The author tries to use the story to make a moral point and, while not against that in principle, wasn't happy with it in practice as the story line seemed to be held hostige by the moral. Not a bad read, just not particularly co ...more
Jun 30, 2016 Julia rated it really liked it
Shelves: pulitzer-prize
Pulitzer prize winning, but relatively unknown, novel set on the Prairie west of Iowa and during the Civil War. The writing flows beautifully and the characters are rich and full of life. I couldn't put it down, and was awed that the rape was treated with more understanding and tenderness than you hear in the current press. Truly a love story not only of a man and woman, but of a family, extended family and a community.
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2015 Reading Chal...: The Able McLaughlin's by Margaret Wilson 2 16 Sep 05, 2015 10:30AM  
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  • Scarlet Sister Mary
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  • Journey in the Dark
  • In This Our Life
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  • Now in November
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  • Guard of Honor
  • His Family
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  • The Late George Apley
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  • The Collected Stories of Jean Stafford
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

American novelist. In 1923, she married G. D. Turner, after which she became a resident in England. She was awarded the 1924 Pulitzer Prize for The Able McLaughlins.

Source: Wikipedia.
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