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The Able McLaughlins

A book by Margaret Wilson

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"When marrying, ask yourself.. would you be able to converse...with this person...in old age."

  • Sep 18, 2010
The time of this 1924 Pulitzer Prize winning novel is toward the conclusion of the Civil War when families are receiving notices about the deaths, injuries and capture of their loved ones during the conflict.

Wully McLaughlin returns to his parents' farm after escaping from the Confederates where he had been taken prisoner.

While at home recovering from a minor injury, he visits the home of Christie McNair. The couple spend time together and a relationship is formed that leads Wully to believe that a marriage will follow after the war.

The war ends and Wully returns to his joyous parents. Shortly thereafter he goes to the McNair farm expecting a fond welcome. When he arrives, Christie won't look at him and her coldness shocks Wully.

Not giving up, he comes back to her farm secretly to see her again. He observes Christie sitting on her front porch, crying and seemingly desperate.

He is completely unaware of what is going on and is on the road back home when he runs into a relative, Peter Keith.  Whey Wully asks Peter if he knows what is going on with Christie, Peter becomes defensive and tells him that he asked her to marry him when Wully was away. In an argument that follows, Wully realizes that Peter had taken advantage of Christie and Peter leaves town fearing Wully's wrath.

The novel goes on to see how Wully tries to win Christie back and tell her that everything will turn out properly. He has his war record and a strong family to help the community see that this child being born early shouldn't bring disgrace.

The novel offers a good description of life in the open farm country of Iowa. In one particularly well told portion of the story, a woman of wealth in Scotland weds an Iowa farmer who was a widower. The farmer brings the woman back to his home and she realizes that she would be living in a desolate area in a home that was like a sty.

I enjoyed the story and the manner in which the author told of life at that time. Some of Wully's war experiences reminded me of "The Red Badge of Courage." However, I felt that the story meandered a bit and was overly long. Be that said, I would mildly recommend it.

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review by . March 14, 2009
I read this novel because it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1924. After reading it I've come to the conclusion 1923 must have been a pretty bad year for good novels or the Pulitzer Prize jury was out to lunch. This is one of most over dramatic, over written, boring novels I've read in some time. The prose is turgid, the characterization is poor, and the plot borders on the unbelievable.     Wully McLaughlin comes home wounded from the Civil War and while there falls in love at first …
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Mike Draper ()
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Michael A.Draper retired from working as a financial planner with Mass Mutual.   Married to Diana for 48 years, one son and daughter-in-law and two lovely granddaughters.      … more
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About this book


1924 Pulitzer Prize Winning novel by Margaret Wilson.

Wully McLaughlin comes home wounded from the Civil War and while there falls in love at first sight with Christie. The last time Wully saw Christie she was a small girl but now she's an all grown up beauty. Wully secures her promise to marry him after the war so he returns to his unit. After the war is over Wully comes home to find Christie distant and cold - and soon finds out why. She is pregnant with another man's child. The rest of the novel is about how Wully and Christie deal with these scandalous events in this very rural, very close knit community.
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ISBN-10: 0877972508
ISBN-13: 978-0877972501
Author: Margaret Wilson
Publisher: Cherokee Publishing Company (GA) (September 1994)

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