Philipp Meyer wrote one of the most depressing books I've ever read, American Rust, about the western Pennsylvania area that I know well. Now he's written a less depressing but every bit as intense a novel, one that gives a sweeping survey of Texas history from the mid-19th century to the present. If you have read Empire of The Summer Moon, some of this will sound familiar as you follow Eli McCullough from his youth, when he was captured by the Commanche Indians, to his old age as a wealthy rancher and oil baron. Told in the alternating voices of Eli, his son Peter, and his granddaughter, Jeannie, the story revolves around a family scarred by personal trials who happen to participate in three exciting eras in the history of Texas: the conflicts in the early settlements of the territory, the border conflicts after the Mexican revolution, and the oil boom of the second half of the 20th century. This is a whopping good tale that gives James Michener a run for his money. If you can get past the graphic descriptions of the Indian raid in the first 45 pages, you'll enjoy this read. Highly recommended.— Alice
“Epic yet intimate, Meyer's The Son is the best kind of historical fiction. Vivid characters and great storytelling bring to life a distant time and place, while the themes and issues explored are completely relevant to our time. The interwoven perspectives of the three generations of the McCullough family create a counterpoint as each comments on the others, their mores, and their expectations and how these change over time. This is what great literature should be: a page-turner with a serious moral purpose.”
— Scott, Books Inc., San Francisco, CA
A Globe & Mail 100 Selection
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.