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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 claimSpring, 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."
THE SON is a historical saga of epic proportions about American settlement of Texas. It had all the elements of being one of the better recent novels about the settlement of the American frontier, the Indians, the Mexicans, and cattle and oil wealth. Unfortunately it was a disappointment because it got lost in a flip-flop interleaved story of different characters at different times.

The part that interested me most was the fate of Eli McCullough, a 13-year-old son of Texas frontier settlers, who is captured by the Comanche when they raid his family homestead, and rape, kill and dismember his mother and sister. Eli survives by assimilating himself into the Comanche world to be treated as a young brave by learning their skills in riding, hunting and warfare. He eventually goes out on raids on other tribes and their greatest enemies, the white settlers and the Texas rangers. While this seems to be a bit of a Stockholm syndrome reaction you get a feeling that all of these skills were natural to Eli who went through his eventful life fighting and dominating to the last.

Eventually Eli "escapes" back to his white surroundings and is forced into the harsh and dangerous life of the Texas Rangers. After surviving this experience (many didn't) he then fights for the South returning as "the Colonel" with a stolen fortune to found a huge ranch for his dynasty in South Texas. Nothing stands in his way, including justifying the massacre of a distinguished old Mexican family, the Garcias to gain their land. While cattle was king in the early days, later on Eli chased down mineral rights which made him an oil baron.

Eli considers his younger son Peter "a disappointment" because he doesn't inherit any of his father's dominant and brutal ways and sees the future world of Texas as a shared inheritance with the Mexicans. Peter is forever haunted by the slaughter of the Garcias who had who settled and developed the frontier before the Americans. Jeannie McCullough, Eli's great-granddaughter, inherits some of Eli's drive and ruthlessness and presides over her oil and gas empire well into the twenty-first century.

While Meyer's descriptions of life with the Comanche were fascinating, I found his flip-flop storytelling between characters hard to follow, so much so that in some parts I really didn't know where the character fitted into the full picture.

An underlying theme of Meyer's book is that the history of Texas was a ruthless fight for survival of the fittest. I expected that the book would have left me, as someone who doesn't live in America, with an admiration for those who struggled to survive in the harsh and huge world of Texas, but it left me with a feeling of disappointment at the outcome on the various peoples who lived in that vast State over the last 150 years, and the immense impact of these struggles on an already fragile environment. It is clear to me that in the case of Texas the fittest were definitely not the best.

The Son by Philipp Meyer is a true masterpiece. It is one of the best historical novels that I have ever read and I would highly recommend it to anybody who appreciates fine literature. I am forever fascinated by the genre of historical fiction and I always wonder how authors who write in this genre deal with their personal conditioning and own beliefs or simply the impossible task of researching everything that’s relevant. Whenever I have a chance I always ask if they have had second thoughts about representing figures who are often a long time gone and cannot come back to set the record straight. I think that The Son walks this fine line of research versus artistic licence extremely well. I can sense where Philipp’s sympathies lay, but it is never blatantly obvious and I could not find any passages that would clearly state it. I really love the freedom of interpretation that Philipp left to me as a reader.
The Son is a novel of the American West, and to be more specific it is the story of Texas from about 1836 to present day - played against the canvas of the lives of one fictional family the McCulloughs. The narrative leads us through the changes that five generations of the McCulloughs experience while moving through the transformation from ranchers into oilmen, but we also meet a lot of Mexicans and of course Indians - predominantly the Comanche tribes. No ethnic group, and in fact no individual in this novel has exclusivity on goodness and virtue (although Peter is probably the one who gets the closest to it). One of the ideas that runs all through the story is that “you only get rich by taking things from other people” which applies equally to everybody in this book. The only difference is that certain people decide to ignore this fact while others fully acknowledge it and therefore they are more accepting of the consequences.
One of the most astounding aspects of the Son is the amount of minute detail, especially when it comes to the Comaches and their ways of living. I read that Philipp Meyer spent months learning first-hand how to skin a deer, how to use a crossbow and even tasted the blood of a freshly killed buffalo. All this research really paid off, as I can’t remember when I felt so completely immersed in a fictional world. There is also a real cinematic quality to his description, and in parts the books felt like watching some of the old westerns with their grainy panoramas of the landscape with big skies. The one thing worth noting here is that while Meyer explores the idea of myth building, he is also engaged in building his own version of that particular myth.
The other remarkable thing about this novel is the way that the story is told, and this is maybe the true genius of Meyer’s writing. The Son is visceral, high on emotions and really heartfelt, but at the same time it is also very physical and brutal: soaked in blood and gore and even though one seems to exclude the other Meyer is somehow able to pull it off. I can’t think of many other writers like this - although Cormac McCarthy - with his Blood Meridian or No Country for Old Men - would be probably a good comparison here.
The Son is simply a stunning novel: historical fiction of the highest order; a novel of the past which reminds us of lessons in history and in humanity. These lessons are still as valid today as they were when Edward Gibbon wrote the words, which Philipp Meyer used to start The Son “… the vicissitudes of fortune, which spares neither man nor the proudest of his work … buries empires and cities in a common grave”. I can’t wait to see what Philipp Meyer will do next.

Philipp Meyer’s second novel, “The Son”, validates him as an American storyteller who artistically captures the place, the times and especially the characters of his story. “The Son” is the latest in a long line of epic novels about Texas and most certainly the equal of its predecessors from Ferber, McMurtry, McCarthy and Michener. (Interestingly, Edna Ferber makes a cameo appearance here.) Meyer’s story is as readable as “Lonesome Dove”, as poetic as “All the Pretty Horses”, as dramatic as “Giant” and has the scope of Michener’s “Texas”.

This is the story of a Texas family whose patriarch, Eli McCoullough, much like Charles Goodnight, is born with the Republic of Texas in 1836 and a century later is recording his remembrances. His is the primary story covering the frontier and old west years of Texas. At twelve, Eli is captured by the Comanche and, after no small amount of depredations, assimilates into the tribe becoming a warrior and eventually a leader. This story line is quite reminiscent of “Little Big Man” and gives us insight into Texas before the white man invasion. It’s here that Meyer well describes the land, fauna and wildlife as well as Comanche culture and daily life. Eli’s story as Tiehteti, his Comanche name, spans the breadth of Texas and brings lots of adventure. Like Jack Crabbe’s, this story is told as reminisces of a very old man. It’s told so well and compellingly that the reader easily grants credulity to near perfect and detailed recall of a centenarian. Two of Eli’s descendants complete the epic.

Peter, is the title character and tells his story in a series of diary entries spanning the years 1915 to 1920. Through Peter’s eyes we see that his father, Eli, now a wealthy Texas rancher/oilman, has become a seriously flawed megalomaniac in the mold of Daniel Plainview. Strained from the beginning, the relationship between father and son finally breaks as Peter, at 47, falls in love with a Tejano (Texans descended from early Mexican settlers), the group Eli disdains to the point of mass murder. The family conflict here rivals that of the Ewings.

Great-granddaughter Jeanne Anne is raised as the stereotypical Texas heiress on the family’s South Texas ranch and eventually becomes, most unusually, a ruling Texas “oilman”. Jeanne Anne morphs from wealthy wife and mother into titular manager of the family oil business even to the point of becoming one of the good-old-boys going by the name J.A., surely a reflection of J.R. Ewing or H.L. Hunt.

I do have a serious problem with Philipp Meyer’s Texas epic. His detail of early Texas, his accuracy in names, places and historical events clearly make this a historical novel. But he also clearly has an agenda that diminishes the historical aspects of this book. According to Mr. Meyer Anglo-Texans with few exceptions are murderous, land thieves with no regard for the land or its inhabitants, human and wild. In fact, Peter, the son, is the only Anglo-Texan in this story who doesn’t fit this description. Meyer holds the Texas Rangers in special contempt, “What was left was an assortment of bankrupt soldiers, adventure seekers, convicts, and God’s abandoneds, led by incompetent sons of politicians.” Meyer’s perspective is that the Anglo-Texans ruthlessly wiped out not only the Indians but also the early Mexican ranchers solely for the purpose of stealing land. He does put this into a historical perspective: “They [earlier Indian tribes] were all wiped out by the Apache. Who were in turn wiped out, in Texas anyway, by the Comanche. Who in turn were wiped out by the Americans. … You did not need Hitler to see that it was not a pleasant story."

Meyer has an MFA degree from the University of Texas and lives in Austin and New York. I only wish he had more closely studied, understood and used the perspectives of his UT associates, past and present: H.R. Brand, T.R. Fehrenbach, J. Frank Dobie and Walter Prescott Webb.

I am very grateful to HarperCollins Publishers and The Reading Room for providing me an advanced reading copy of “The Son.”

Shari Larsen
This epic novel spans several generations of a Texas family. As the story opens, 100 year old Eli McCullough is telling the story of his life to a reporter. In 1836, he was the first male child born in the newly established Republic of Texas. He is 13 years old when a band of Comanche storm his family's homestead and kidnap Eli and his brother.

Eli is brave and clever, and quickly adapts to the Comanche life, and earns acceptance into the tribe. But a few years later, when disease begins killing off the tribe, Eli finds himself alone. Neither white nor Indian, he must carve a place for himself in a world he doesn't fully belong to. Love, honor, and even children are sacrificed in the name of ambition as the family becomes one of the wealthiest in Texas.

The story of the family is told in turns by Eli, Eli's son Peter, who has to bear the emotional cost of his father's drive for power, and Jeannie, Eli's great granddaughter, who had to fight hard to succeed in the oil business, at a time when business of any kind was considered a "man's world".

Eventually, the McCoulloughs must face the consequences of their choices, starting with those that Eli made which affect the generations to come.

There is a lot of violence in this novel, quite detailed at times, (especially the things done to the whites by the Comanche), but it doesn't feel gratuitous, it's a reflection of how brutal things were in that time and place. While Eli's chapters of the story deal with Indians vs. whites, Peter's story deals with the racism of the whites against the Hispanics, which led a lot of senseless violent acts committed against the people of Spanish descent.

This is a long novel, 572 pages, but the story never feels slowed down or lagging. At first, I wasn't sure I was going to like it, mainly because of the violence, but as I got further into the story, I really appreciated how well written the characters were, and the plots twists all throughout the story really drew me in. The author has a real gift for giving a good feel for the times and places without going into overly long descriptions of scenery, which I liked because every word in the book really stuck to the heart of the story. It's not as easy feat to pull off a story that spans so much time, from 1836 to 2012, but Philipp Meyer has accomplished it with this novel.

I received a free advance readers copy of this book from TheReadingRoom.com. It will be released to the public May 28, 2013.

The Son is a multigenerational saga spanning three generations. This unforgettable Texas family’s story plays out from the three perspectives, each with their own hardships from Comanche and border raids to the oil boom. This is a story of power, blood, and the land; Philipp Meyer explores the American dream and the dark roots of which it came.

I’ve been meaning to pick up American Rust for a while now but instead The Son is the first look at the remarkable writing of Philipp Meyer. The Son follows three main characters of a Texas family: Eli, his son Pete and Pete’s Granddaughter Jeanne, each with their own set of issues to deal with. Overall this is a novel of the rise of a Texas oil dynasty and the demons facing them.

First the McCullough family is an old frontier family taking the land from the natives; the first character Eli (born in 1836) tells the story of being early settlers. But he soon finds himself being the sole survivor after being raided by the Comanche. His story is one that shows both sides, being taken captive and then learning the ways of the American natives. Confronting him and the reader with the idea of heritage from both the settlers and natives view point.

His son Peter, not only has to deal with his father’s violent past but also the Mexican border raids of the early 1900s. This is a very emotionally driven narrative, his father who has obviously had to adapt to Comanche life only to watch them die out with disease, starvation and the discrimination of settlers. Now Eli has a drive for power and Peter shares this story, how it effects the family, all while defending their land from raiding Mexicans.

Finally we have Jeanna, her story is not so violent but confronting none the less. Her story follows the Oil booms of the 20th century, the social and economy changing all while dealing with the demons of her family history. She is left to deal with most of the major consequences of her family’s choices in the past, while trying to succeed in business in a male dominated industry and world.

This is an epic adventure of wealth, privilege, family and the consequences of our actions. While it is a pretty dark subject matter, the book is rather elegant and beautiful. The prose alone makes it that way, Meyer really has created this wonderful scenery, yet I’ve not really noticed an overuse of similes. The writing style reminds me a little of John Steinbeck but there is an element of Cormac McCarthy that comes through as well, especially in Eli’s story. Overall The Son is a compelling novel with some interesting ideas for the reader.

I was really impressed with this novel but with the constant changing of time periods and characters at times I did feel like I struggled to keep up but Philipp Meyer did manage to push the story on. Historical Fiction with shades of western and southern gothic is how I would describe this novel but there is so much more to it than that. This is the second book in the American trilogy planned by Meyer, all dealing with issues facing America. American Rust with the towns that modern economy leave behind when all the factories move and The Son rather than dealing with a declining America, it deals with its dark past full of the blood and bones on the natives. I can’t wait to read American Rust and I’m interested to know what book three would be about but that may be awhile out. For now it check out Philipp Meyer’s works he has the makings of a great American author.

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The Son