Say something about yourself!
Thud! Hear that? It's the sound of a book hitting the floor from the top shelf because one of those previous 100 Best Books is hitting the ground to make room for The Son. This is The One that you wait for, hope for, and love every minute you spend reading or listening.
Meyer's new novel has already earned comparisons to the works of Cormac McCarthy (Blood Meridian), Larry McMurtry (Lonesome Dove), James Michener (Texas), and Edna Ferber (Giant)--and justly so, as one of the most entertaining novels of the American West ever written, and probably the book to bet on as the biggest blockbuster since The Help. Spanning four generations of Texans--from the first man born into the Republic of Texas in 1836, the grand patriarch Col. Eli McCullough, to the death of his great granddaughter/oil baron, Jeannie McCullough in 2012.
Meyer is an exciting, fresh-voiced author with an historian's flair. He layers this family saga with the colorful mythopoeic history of our unique American West, painting a rugged land, fought for, and inhabited by the white man, the Indian tribes, and the Mexican people. The land itself seems a part of these people, running through their veins like the blood they shed to claim a piece of the frontier. Three family members narrate the story of the Texas McCulloughs:
Eli narrates the frontier years, beginning as a young boy kidnapped during a violent Comanche raid where he witnesses the brutal murder of his mother, sister, and brother. Eli is taken and raised as a Comanche. Instinctually, he fights to survive among what history calls the most savage tribe of Indians. When finally returned to the white society, he has embraced the Comanche so completely that he rejects the life of his childhood, and is seen as an outcast, a *white Comanche*, "either hero or sociopath." In his voice the book is alive and vivid--his young observations of a foreign harsh world so achingly raw and interesting that this time alone would have been a captivating book.
Peter McCullough, the son and resentful heir to the cattle and land fortune amassed by his father Eli, is the conscience of the book--the tender hearted, tragic love-struck narrator, traumatized by a brutal raid against a neighboring Mexican ranching family, initiated by his father and his Vaqueros under the guise of recapturing stolen livestock. Peter is disgusted by his father's legacy, trapped by his role, and stuck in a loveless marriage.
Jeanne Anne is the gutsy great granddaughter of Eli, born in 1926--a tough oil baroness with the hide of an armadillo, that must fight to be accepted in a *man's business*. Meyer gives her a strong and authentic presence, and captures her inner-battles of carrying on the family legacy and raising her own family. The three narrations wind in and out of each other with an unhindered clear progression that moves the saga along effortlessly, until the mighty family trickles to just a stream.
The evolution is bloody and brutal. Meyer relates the unsparing events detached from emotion, offsetting the horrific deeds with the instinct for survival - and the need for prosperity...the path of all histories. The violence is also set against the backdrop of the natural beauty of the American West - the rugged and unforgiving landscape, the choreography in the hunting of buffalo, raising cattle, excavating for oil, It is the process of birth in nature and life and seems organic. With these filters, the violence is authentic to the history and never grabbed me as gratuitous or manipulative. You listen with a strange sense of acceptance. (I wasn't aware that some of our *current slang* ain't so current.)
You hear a rattle and a native drumbeat, joined by a strumming guitar and the chords of a melancholy harmonica--and finally the smoky twang of Will Patton's voice hits your ears. It's all like the thrill of hearing the swelling surround-sound envelop you at a theatre...there's an excitement already to this one, promising an adventure that is delivered with perfection. A powerful, raw story, from an author destined to be known and a book that won't be forgotten. The Son kept me spellbound and left me looking back, yearning for more of this journey across Texas through the years.
*This is already so long, but I thought the interview with Meyer featured on Amazon was worth mentioning. His research process and commitment were very interesting.
Have re-discovered "quality time." Evenings listening to good books have replaced mindless tv watching. What a difference!
Here is a novel that touches on one of the less known tragedies in the lives of courageous pioneer women. Glendon Swarthout has given us a very compelling story of the fate of a few women unable to withstand the almost unbelievable pressures and sacrifices of life after leaving all that was dear and familiar to move west with their husbands.
As the story unfolds we hear the back stories of four women who were unable to withstand the fear, the losses, the demands and incredible loneliness they suffered--often with no one to help them. In this story, the practical-minded and compassionate local minister has decided to help the women get back east, to either family or asylums. But finding someone to take the time to make the trip proves challenging. Finally the local school teacher, Mary Bee Cuddy, undertakes to make the journey. Realizing that she can't do it alone, makes a bargain with a criminal to help him stay alive in return for his assistance in getting them across the country. Those who took on this sad task were known as "homesmen."
The entire story is fascinating, though sometimes painful to listen to, but brings insight into the price paid by those who relocated to the west in the 1850's. The character development is very good--including the insensitivity of some husbands (not all) whose wives are afflicted with madness--or just giving up on living as a result of almost inhuman conditions they faced. Where I think it might be a bit romanticized is the way Cuddy and the criminal--who calls himself George Briggs--meet each other. That seemed a bit contrived, but it served to unite the most unlikely people to face an arduous journey crossing the country with four women suffering with severe mental illness.
A very poignant scene occurs when they meet a wagon train going west, and Cuddy would like to allow the women to meet and talk to the women from the other group, but is turned away, for fear their husbands would see the possible outcome of taking their wives into a life of great hardship that might leave them devastated before they even arrive.
This is a good book. I liked the narration, I liked the story. It almost seems written to have been made into a film, and I look forward to seeing it when that occurs! Highly recommend!