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The Able McLaughlins

(The McLaughlins #1)

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  1,080 ratings  ·  88 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, 268 pages
Published April 1st 2007 by Cherokee Publishing Company (GA) (first published 1923)
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Average rating 3.66  · 
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 ·  1,080 ratings  ·  88 reviews

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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 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 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
Jul 25, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: pulitzers-read
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
Apr 07, 2010 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.
Jan 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The Able McLaughlins by Margaret Wilson
10 out of 10

This exulting, admirable, august winner of the Pulitzer Prize for literature early in the last century, in 1924 - - is the paradigm, the archetype of the novel that this reader loves, classic, telling an ecstatic story, with role models and a few villains – the absolute one in the book seems to get away, if not with murder, at least with a horrible abuse and crime, but the tone of the benevolent tale is m
Feb 02, 2016 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
May 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Although I enjoyed this short novel, it did not seem like the type of book that would be awarded a Pulitzer. It certainly illustrates how our taste in literary fiction has changed over the past century. This is the story of a young soldier who returns to his Iowa farming family and the girl he loves. I appreciated how far ahead of its time it seemed to be in describing a family responding to a victim of rape. There was the hint of the morality tale in the portrayal of characters and the novel’s ...more
Jun 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pulitzer
I really liked this, and couldn't put it down. I don't know why, but I am really feeling it with the turn of the century literature these days! I found this a very pleasant Pulitzer to work through, and thought the setting was brilliantly done. I loved the wheat. I also really enjoyed having the original first edition, which was sent from a library in Tallahassee. The book was the perfect size, and had absurdly thick pages, and came by its 100 years of old book scent honestly. It was a rare trea ...more
Apr 25, 2020 rated it it was ok
Having just escaped from a hellish brush with Quebecois regionalism (thanks, Riguet), I couldn’t wait to open the pages of this new book: Margaret Wilson’s The Able McLaughlins, the next entry in my foray through the Pulitzer Award winners for fiction. Best to just jump right into it and erase the bad memories before they have a chance to encode, I thought, so I turned to page 1, hoping for a bit of that perhaps-a bit-dull-but-at least-mildly-interesting urban realism with which Pulitzer folks o ...more
Melissa (ladybug)
Nov 15, 2011 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 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.
Apr 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Margaret Wilson won the Pulitzer Prize for The Able McLaughlins in 1924. The story is about a Scotish family who pioneer the Iowa wilderness in the 1860's. I enjoyed the story but the character development was not up to some of the other Pulitzers I have read. I did, however, greatly enjoy the ending of this book as the final conflict is resolved with the main characters with a superb demonstration of forgiveness. I give this book 4 stars.
P.S. Winn
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is an intriguing story that takes readers back to the civil war and a strange situation when Wully McLaughlin returns from the war and finds the woman he loved pregnant with another man’s child. I think stories like this are fascinating.
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
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
Jan 03, 2008 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 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2012, pulitzers-read, 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 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 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 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 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 rated it really liked it
A great story! I love when good conquers evil and when love conquers all! Great characters!
Feb 07, 2018 rated it liked it
I can see how this book would have won the Pulitzer Prize. The craftsmanship of the writing is simple but beautiful in its simplicity. The story is about chain migration of the Scots to Iowa from 1840-1865 and the difficulties of prairie life. The resolution of the plot would be unacceptable by today's standards.

The main character had married a woman who had suffered her cousin raping her. The marriage was done quickly because he wanted people to think that the child, the product of the rape, w
Apr 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At first glance this work would be described as the story of Wully McLaughlin as he returns from the Civil War to his sprawling Scottish family on the plains of a developing country. But this work is less about Wully as much as it is about the women who support him. It is not about the men of the plains. Wilson even goes so far as to point out that the husband of a significant character is of no account. The villain of this work, Peter Keith, violates his cousin Chirstie and is secretly run off ...more
John Guffey
Apr 22, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: pulitzer-winners
I've finished the Pulitzers of the pre-1930's.

11. Alice Adams by Booth Tarkington (22) very boring/dull characters
10. The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington (19) still boring but had a better character
9. So Big by Edna Ferber (25) wasn't really any good until the family was humbled
8. The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder (28) pretty dull but it had a good premise
7. The Able McLaughlins by Margaret Wilson (24) the story itself is good but the writing is boring
6. Early Autumn by Lo
Sep 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
How I admire this author's surety that people can change. The anger can be transformed. The stingy can become generous. And so on. And, the change happens through....well, I guess it's through Grace.

Really got wrapped up in the secret-keeping and the wonderful descriptions of farming, pioneering, family drama, and more tendencies. On stinginess:

"Andy McFee, for example, ...was so careful of expenditure that when his corn got a little high in the summer he always took off his shirt and hoed the w
Claire Osgood
Jun 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
As this was a Pulitzer Prize winning novel in 1924, I believed it would be a quality read, if somewhat tame by today's standards. The historical background of Civil War times in the Midwest was interesting, The viewpoints of the immigrant settlers of this previously unfarmed land were of particular interest to me. The day to day life of a Union soldier returning to his family of origin was depicted in this novel published around 60 years after the end of this bloody war. The power of forgiveness ...more
May 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
A very enjoyable, easy read about two young people, Wullie and Chirstie, who fall in love. Set in the 1860s in a Scottish community in Iowa, Wullie comes back from the civil war to find Chirstie has been raped and is pregnant. He decides to marry her, claiming the baby as his own and keeping Chirstie's rape a secret. The novel provides good descriptions of the hard working and harsh life of the Scots immigrant farmers. I liked Chirstie's step mother, Barbara McNair, enjoying her battle with her ...more
David Claassen
Jul 01, 2019 rated it liked it
This tale of an honourable Scottish immigrant family during the Civil War time period was somewhat interesting but a little bit slow. The writing is a little bit dated, and it was not always easy to keep going. The side story of the protagonist's father in law coming home with a new wife who was not interested in taking his cheapness was almost more enjoyable than the main story. A few humorous asides about how cheap Scots are as well. Overall, a completely fine, if somewhat forgettable book.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.

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.

Other books in the series

The McLaughlins (2 books)
  • The Law and the McLaughlins (The McLaughlins, #2)

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