Summary and book reviews of The Son by Philipp Meyer

The Son

By Philipp Meyer

The Son
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: May 2013,
    576 pages.
    Paperback: Jan 2014,
    592 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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Book Summary

Part epic of Texas, part classic coming-of-age story, part unflinching portrait of the bloody price of power, The Son is an utterly transporting novel that maps the legacy of violence in the American West through the lives of the McCulloughs, an ambitious family as resilient and dangerous as the land they claim.

Spring, 1849. The first male child born in the newly established Republic of Texas, Eli McCullough is thirteen years old when a marauding band of Comanches storms his homestead and brutally murders his mother and sister, taking him captive. Brave and clever, Eli quickly adapts to life among the Comanches, learning their ways and language, answering to a new name, becoming the chief's adopted son, and waging war against their enemies, including white men - which complicates his sense of loyalty and understanding of who he is. But when disease, starvation, and overwhelming numbers of armed Americans decimate the tribe, Eli finds himself alone. Neither white nor Indian, civilized nor fully wild, he must carve a place for himself in a world in which he does not fully belong - a journey of adventure, tragedy, hardship, grit, and luck that reverberates in the lives of his progeny.

Intertwined with Eli's story are those of his son, Peter, a man who bears the emotional cost of his father's drive for power, and Jeannie, Eli's great-granddaughter, a woman who must fight hardened rivals to succeed in a man's world.

Philipp Meyer deftly explores how Eli's ruthlessness and steely pragmatism transform subsequent generations of McCulloughs. Love, honor, even children are sacrificed in the name of ambition as the family becomes one of the richest powers in Texas, a ranching-and-oil dynasty of unsurpassed wealth and privilege. Yet, like all empires, the McCulloughs must eventually face the consequences of their choices. Harrowing, panoramic, and vividly drawn, The Son is a masterful achievement from a sublime young talent.



Chapter One

Colonel Eli McCullough (taken from a 1936 WPA Recording)

It was prophesied I would live to see one hundred and having achieved that age I see no reason to doubt it. I am not dying a Christian though my scalp is intact and if there is an eternal hunting ground, that is where I am headed. That or the river Styx. My opinion at this moment is my life has been far too short: the good I could do if given another year on my feet. Instead I am strapped to this bed, fouling myself like an infant.

Should the Creator see fit to give me strength I will make my way to the waters that run through the pasture. The Nueces River at its eastern bend. I have always preferred the Devil's. In my dreams I have reached it three times and it is known that Alexander the Great, on his last night of mortal life, crawled from his palace and tried to slip into the Euphrates, knowing that if his body disappeared, his people would assume he had ascended to heaven as a god. His wife stopped him at the...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

Philipp Meyer was selected in 2010 by The New Yorker as one of its "20 under 40" authors to watch, and so far he's lived up to the hype; The Son is every bit as entertaining as his debut novel, American Rust. This is historical fiction at its finest, and fans of literature written about the Old West will definitely find much to love here.   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

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Media Reviews
The Washington Post

With its vast scope, The Son makes a viable claim to be a Great American Novel of the sort John Dos Passos and Frank Norris once produced... an extraordinary orchestration of American history.

The Wall Street Journal

There is an extravagant quantity of birth, death and bitter passion in Philipp Meyer’s grand and engrossing Texas saga.

The Los Angeles Times

Philipp Meyer offers a tale that spans generations and, in its own way, encapsulates the history of the state itself.

NPR

One of the most solid, unsparing pieces of American historical fiction to come out this century... a brilliant chronicle of Texas... stunning, raw and epic... The Son is vast, brave and, finally, unstoppable.

Esquire

This is the book you want to read this summer... Every facet of Meyer’s world--scent and sight and sensation--has weight and heft... Meyer’s dream is a nightmare in which blood seeks power. It’s also un-put-down-able.

Huffington Post

A novel that is an epic in the truest sense of the word: massive in scope, replete with transformations in fortune and fate, and drenched in the blood of war.

The New York Times

The greatest things about The Son are its scope and ambition. . . It’s an enveloping, extremely well-wrought, popular novel with passionate convictions about the people, places and battles that it conjures.

New York Times Book Review

By the novel’s end, Philipp Meyer has demonstrated that he can write a potboiler of the first rank, aswirl with pulpy pleasures: impossible love affairs, illicit sex, strife between fathers and sons, the unhappiness of the rich, the corruption of power

The Boston Globe

Meyer’s tale is vast, volcanic, prodigious in violence, intermittently hard to fathom, not infrequently hard to stomach, and difficult to ignore

The Boston Globe

Meyer’s tale is vast, volcanic, prodigious in violence, intermittently hard to fathom, not infrequently hard to stomach, and difficult to ignore

Booklist

Starred Review. Inside Meyer's massive Texas saga is perhaps the best Indian captive story ever written ... Lonesome Dove also come to mind, as well as the novels of Douglas C. Jones, Alan LeMay, and Benjamin Capps.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Like all destined classics, Meyer's second novel (after American Rust) speaks volumes about humanity - our insatiable greed, our inherent frailty, the endless cycle of conquer or be conquered.

Library Journal

Treading on similar ground to James Michener, Larry McMurtry, and Cormac McCarthy, Guggenheim Fellowship-winner Meyer (American Rust) brings the bloody, racially fraught history of Texas to life. Call it a family saga or an epic, this novel is a violent and harrowing read.

Kirkus Reviews

Sweeping, absorbing epic. . .An expertly written tale of ancient crimes, with every period detail--and every detail, period--just right.

Author Blurb Kevin Powers, author of The Yellow Birds
The story of our founding mythology; of the men and women who tore a country from the wilderness and the price paid in blood by subsequent generations. An epic in the tradition of Faulkner and Melville, this is the work of a writer at the height of his power.

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The Comanches

One of the main characters in The Son is kidnapped by Comanches and lives as a member of the Kotsoteka tribe.

The word Comanche is thought to be a Spanish corruption of Kohmahts, the Ute term for enemy (the Ute and the Comanche conducted a sporadic 50 year war against each other during the middle of the 18th century). Those referred to as Comanches call themselves Numinu - "The People." Originally part of the eastern Shoshone nations (as evinced by their similar language and customs), their emergence as a distinct people occurred just before the turn of the 18th century and coincided with the introduction of the horse to the American Southwest around 1680 CE. The horse allowed the Comanche to expand their hunting grounds, and they ...

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