Monday, July 2, 2012

What We've Got Here Is A Failure to Communicate

When I was a little girl I loved the Little House on the Prairie books. And I mean, I loved them a lot. I wanted to be Laura Ingalls Wilder. One summer I dressed up practically every day in a long skirt that belonged to my mom and wore the bonnet that I got when my third grade class visited the one room schoolhouse at Greenfield Village and I just pretended, all day long, that I lived in Laura's world. I must have read each of the seven Little House books three or four times apiece. So it's not surprising that now, twenty years on from my days of prairie pretending, I find myself enjoying grown up stories of American prairie life.

Our sixth Pulitzer winner is The Able McLaughlins, by Margaret Wilson, and it is essentially a love story about Wully (short for William) McLaughlin and Chirstie McNair, who live with their respective Scottish-American families on the prairie in the "middle west" in the 1860s. Where exactly the "middle west" is located I'm not sure; at times I thought maybe Iowa, but at one point a character 'goes west' and then there is talk about him being in Chicago. So maybe it's Ohio? Somewhere with big wide open spaces. But I digress. Wully returns home injured from fighting for the Union Army in the Civil War and falls immediately (and I literally mean immediately) for Chirstie. He has to return to the service of the military to fulfill his commitment though, and when he comes home for good he finds Christie's behavior toward him greatly changed.

Book #6: The Able McLaughlins aka Kissing Cousins

I was dreading reading this book at first because I thought it was going to be another plodding story about an infuriatingly silly American family. Clearly, I was prejudging based on the title which reminded me way too much of The Magnificent Amberson. I was dreading this book so much that I was trying to find excuses to skip it or even abandon the project entirely! Ha! However, Maria texted me a picture of the back cover of her copy and my interest was peaked. The exact content of my reply was: "Blah blah blah, farm, blah blah blah frontier, blah blah blah oh! Conflict of old world customs. Okay that part sounds promising."

Sadly, there wasn't much in the way of "conflict of old world customs" but that in no way meant the book didn't have plenty to offer in other ways.

Book #5: One of Ours

This book was really two very distinct but related stories. In hindsight, I guess they did need to be told as one. To start you have a young man who is struggling to find himself within his life as the son of a well to do farmer in America's heartland. He craves a life full of academics and adventure but allows himself to be forced into a mundane existence to suit his family's needs. The entire first half of this book is extremely tragic. I wanted to scream and beat this dutiful son with a brick as he made bad decision after bad decision, simply because he refused to stand up for himself and make decisions that suited HIM.