||2013 Powell's Staff Top 5s
Combine the story telling of James Michener and the dark, dusty setting and characters of Cormac McCarthy and you get Philipp Meyer's The Son. This book is full of history, violence, and three generations of a Texas family's story. It was a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize (The Goldfinch won instead), but this hidden gem deserves equal praise. Recommended By Jeffrey J., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"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." Washington Post
"There is an extravagant quantity of birth, death and bitter passion in Philipp Meyer's grand and engrossing Texas saga."
Wall Street Journal
"Philipp Meyer offers a tale that spans generations and, in its own way, encapsulates the history of the state itself."
Los Angeles Times
"As bold, ambitious and brutal as its subject: the rise of Texas as seen through the tortured history of one family. At 561 pages, The Son is a demanding read....But by the end, Meyer ties it together and not too neatly. Tougher-than-tough Eli McCullough would respect that."
"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."
"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."
"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 stuff of Great American Literature. Like all destined classics, Meyer's second novel speaks volumes about humanity — our insatiable greed, our inherent frailty, the endless cycle of conquer or be conquered."
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Treading on similar ground to James Michener, Larry McMurtry, and Cormac McCarthy, Meyer 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."
"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
"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."
New York Times Book Review
"Sweeping, absorbing epic....An expertly written tale of ancient crimes, with every period detail — and every detail, period — just right."
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Meyer's massive Texas saga is perhaps the best Indian captive story ever written....[Meyer's] tale is best compared to Giant. Little Big Man and Lonesome Dove also come to mind."
Booklist (starred review)
"One of those books that remind you how totally absorbing a novel can be...the work of an uncommonly visionary and skillful writer with a superb sense of pacing...a beautiful, violent and frequently heartbreaking book, but it is not without a sense of fun."
Washington Independent Review of Books
"Meyer's tale is vast, volcanic, prodigious in violence, intermittently hard to fathom, not infrequently hard to stomach, and difficult to ignore."
Philipp Meyer, the acclaimed author of American Rust
, returns with The Son
: an epic of the American West and a multigenerational saga of power, blood, land, and oil that follows the rise of one unforgettable Texas family, from the Comanche raids of the 1800s to the to the oil booms of the 20th century.
Harrowing, panoramic, and deeply evocative, The Son is a fully realized masterwork in the greatest tradition of the American canon — an unforgettable novel that combines the narrative prowess of Larry McMurtry with the knife-edge sharpness of Cormac McCarthy.
About the Author
Philipp Meyer is the author of the critically lauded novel American Rust, winner of the 2009 Los Angeles Times Book Prize. It was an Economist Book of the Year, a Washington Post top ten book of the year, and a New York Times Notable Book. He is a graduate of Cornell University and has an MFA from the University of Texas at Austin, where he was a James A. Michener Fellow. A native of Baltimore, he now lives mostly in Texas.