The Able McLaughlins

July 16, 2009 at 2:00 pm | Posted in Challenges, Fiction | 8 Comments

All right, I’ve finally moved past my stumbling block in reading through the Pulitzers.

Product Details

The Able McLaughlins, by Margaret Wilson, is perhaps one of the more obscure winners on the list.  It was difficult to track down – none of the library systems in my area carried it, and it only seemed to be available for electronic purchase through a single source.  Finally I broke down and paid $20 for this paperback on Amazon.  Then I had it sitting on my shelf, I’d read the first 8 pages or so, and I felt this reluctance to pick it up and finish it.  I’m glad I did, though.

The Able McLaughlins holds its own against the other early Pulitzers.  I’m surprised to be able to say that I enjoyed it more than One of Ours, though I am a big Cather fan.  There is nothing about this book that would seem to prevent its being more widely read.  The core conflict would translate well to a Jodi Picoult story, though in more of a Little House on the Prairie setting and with a little less Movie of the Week-style drama.  There is something transporting about the pastoral atmosphere of these early works.

The thread continues where it began with His Family.  The early Pulitzers are still focusing on traditional family values and moral uplift.  It can be difficult at times to read something lacking our modern sensibility for race and gender equality.  Yet there is still an element of wholesomeness in this lost world of churchgoing farmers, something we don’t tend to see often.  It’s refreshing to encounter it minus the soft lighting and the violins – old-fashioned, decent people encountering various crises in a real human manner.

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  1. I am trying to read all the Pulitzers too, but haven’t got that far yet. It is really good to hear about some of the more obscure ones and discover that they are worth reading. Good luck with the rest of the list!

  2. “a little less Movie of the Week-style drama” – And that actually has me very interested… I really feel like even though today’s Pulitzers in no way resemble the original ones, there’s something very relevant and intriguing to the early winners. I’ll be on the lookout for “The Able McLaughlins” and other early Pulitzer winners, though it’s troubling to know that it’s so hard to find…

    • The five titles before this one are all available as free e-books, if that helps.

  3. Wow! I could not disagree more–I thought it was one of the most wretchedly awful books I have ever read. Flat, wooden characters, meandering plot, condescendingly awful attitudes about women. When I sat down to write its review for my blog, I think I was honestly angry at the novel/author/both, at least on some level. You’re definitely the first person I’ve encountered who has read this book and had anything good to say about it (not that I have a large sample to work from)!

    Would you mind saying a bit more about your reaction? I’d be very interested in reading a positive review of this book, since I don’t honestly think I could compose one even if forced. I promise not to be argumentative in reply, though I may offer a few of my own reactions purely to contrast our readings of the same passage or character. Obviously there isn’t a “right” way to feel about the book, and I’ll admit to being intensely curious about your attitudes regarding it. Sorry barge in so many months late–I just finished reading it on Friday.

  4. Sorry, it screwed up my attempt to leave a very simple link to my blog there. Rather, I should say, _I_ screwed up. 🙂 I don’t think it’s possible for me to edit it to close the tag…ah well. My apologies! 🙂


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