Margaret Stuart, the proud wife of a prosperous Iowa farmer, sets high standards for herself and others. Happy in her marriage, she tries to look the other way when her genial husband, Alec, takes to the bottle. When Elspeth, Margaret's sister, comes to live with them, the young woman is immediately captivated by the beauty and vitality of the farm, and by the affection she receives from those around her. But as summer turns into fall, and the friendship between Alec and Elspeth deepens, Margaret finds her spirit tested by a series of events that seem as cruel and inevitable as the endless prairie winters. Long out of print, Remebering Laughter (1937) marked Wallace Stegner's brilliant literary debut.
“A few hours earlier, they had all been grand people, she thought unhappily, grand people happy in each other’s company – none of them with any ill will or intention of wrong. Now, they had succeeded in so tangling the threads of their lives, that only misery could come of it.” (Ch 3)
Proud and proper Margaret Stuart is married to Alec, a wealthy and genial Iowa farmer. Happy in her marriage, and believing her contentment to be mutual, Margaret does her best to look the other way when Alec takes to the bottle with greater frequency. Shortly, her younger sister, Elspeth, comes from Scotland to live with them. Full of laughter and vitality, she is immediately taken with the farm and with the warm affection extended by Margaret, Alec, and their neighbours. But as summer turns to fall, and the friendship between Alec and Elspeth deepens, cruelty is on the horizon. And the world they all love is about to be replaced with a stony, stagnant silence, a calculated tact, and a pretense of unity. But never forgiveness – never that.
Remembering Laughter (1937) was Wallace Stegner's literary debut. I’ve read and loved Angle of Repose and Big Rock Candy Mountain, and my experience here was no different. Stegner has a way of writing characters that makes me want the best for them, even when their behaviour is cruel or foolish, or otherwise intolerable – I felt this way about Bo in
Big Rock Candy Mountain, and Alec plays that role here. Written in the beautiful prose I’ve come to expect from Stegner, Remembering Laughter is novella length, about a three-hour listen. Narrator Cassandra Campbell is exceptional! Highly recommended!
Overall, I am pleasantly surprised by how much I found myself being drawn into the story. Some of the thoughts/actions of the characters were questionable in my mind, but then again, I have to remember that this story was originally published back in the 1930's, in very different times from what we live in today.
A successful farmer with land and his wife welcome into their home the wife's sister from Scotland. The younger sister is delighted with the farm, the land, and eventually with her sister's husband, who is comical, creative, and makes people laugh. He also drinks regularly with a farmhand. It's rather a classic story but told with so much heart that the reader will feel the suspense and pain.