I would put it in the top 20%, with multiple voices and a vivid story to tell.
I really like the multi-generational tale. I would compare this book favorably with John Steinbeck's East of Eden which tried to explain the rise of California through the generations of the Trask family. The Colonel's story--about capture by Comanche and a rise to wealth--is most riveting of all of them.
It made me heartbroken--the violence is deep, but it is touching, and Philipp Meyer doesn't shy away from the consequences of his characters' choices.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
“I could not shake the feeling I’d stepped over some line,” says a protagonist of The Son, “over which I would never return. But maybe I’d crossed it years earlier, or maybe it had never existed. There was nothing you could take that did not belong to some other person.”
To Philipp Meyer, the story of Texas is a story written in blood and conquest. Spanning a century and a half, the novel follows the lives of three central characters, each from a different generation of a family named McCullough. At the beginning is the dynasty's founder, Eli McCullough, who is kidnapped and brought into manhood by the Comanche Indians, then returns to a civilization he finds too stifling, where he joins the hardbitten Texas Rangers, then, finally, becomes a settled landowner. At our own end of history is his great-granddaughter, Jeanne Ann McCullough, a wealthy and proud oilwoman who, at the end of her life, contemplates all she stood for and the loss of her empire to descendents who will never fill her boots. In between them is Peter McCullough, a cattle baron tormented over his role in the slaughter of a landowning Mexican neighbor and his family by a vigilante mob during the troubles of the early 1900s, an act that nonetheless sows the seeds for his family's greater prominence.
For anyone who appreciates literary American West sagas, this one's a winner, combining the unsentimentality of Cormac McCarthy with the character-driven storytelling of Larry McMurty. We see a world where the old frontier myths, the ones about self-reliance, taming the land, establishing law and order, and so forth are true enough on the surface, but hide deeper, darker stories. The Comanches here are “godlike” in their mastery of the elements, and casual in their cruelty. From them, the new waves of conquerors of the land (the Spaniards, the Mexicans, the Anglos) take the lesson of force, finding increasingly civilized rationales for it, the scheming lawyers pushing the real frontiersmen further out. For Eli, the rawest character, violence is simply a fact of life. For Peter, more psychologically complex, it’s a source of inner torment, the knowledge that decency brings him little respect from those beneath him in the power structure of a growing empire. Men, he observes, *want* to be ruled. For Jeanne, her now-mythologized family and the prospect of its financial decline become a personal challenge to carve her way into new frontiers -- oil, politics, the media, the world of men -- while trying to evade the aloneness that seems to define the world she has chosen.
Meyer intersperses his three storylines, revealing both the way the choices of one generation shape the lives of the next, the same themes recurring in different forms in each. Sometimes, these recurrences are an obvious consequence of history, sometimes they’re a product of literary license, but both blur together into a resonant whole. Meyer’s choice of language can sometimes strain credulity, as when Eli describes conversations among Indians or frontiersmen in a way that seems packaged for modern ears, but the prose expertly blends the immediacy of the moment with the insights and oversights of future recollection. We see the subtle shiftings and sortings of truth into different histories, none of them entirely true.
It’s a bleak but enthralling novel, symbolic of the United States and its ascendency, with a hint in the last chapters of what may come next. Meyers captures the moral ambiguities of a country founded on theories of liberty and pursuit of happiness, but whose true celebration is of power and material success. I also came away feeling like I understood the mentality of Texans better. Eli’s strange story may be the most captivating, especially with Will Patton’s audiobook narration, but all flow together. 4.5 stars.
...without any explicit scenes. There are sex scenes depicted however in a more factual manner.
After reading the reviews, I had been braced for some gruesome violence because I consider myself sensitive to these things however I have finished the story and it was fine. There is plenty of violence, it is descriptive however not overly. There is just one gruesome scene that bothered me most largely because it's hard to think about what divides can drive people to inflict extreme cruelty on others.
The story moves along briskly. The characters felt well fleshed out. As to the other main gripe of some of the other reviewers, I will agree that the story jumping around was a bit confusing and perhaps the story might have been better without this. Because of this, in the case of Eli McCullough in particular, we know that he's not going to die or be killed at earlier points in the story because we know that he ends up wealthy and with heirs early on.
From a historic perspective, I found this added dimension edifying without being boring as I'm not much of a history buff. I noticed that the subject of women and their station at the time is brought up on many occasions. We have come a long way since then. Race issues are also a ubiquitous theme throughout. It's so encouraging to think how much times have changed. Whereas I have never really studied the indians, their culture and values I now have a much better understanding and respect. This story underlines their courage and altruism and love for nature and the natural world all values that I can fully admire and appreciate.
Probably due to all the jumping around in the story line I didn't like where it ended. It seemed that one point, the story just ends and audible thanks you for listening.
I definitely enjoyed Will Patton's narration. He's a natural for the characters that he's portrayed here.
I enjoyed reading The Son. It had a great combination of gritty, cowboy and Indian story telling, and also a lush, nostalgic feel. I loved the descriptions by Eli, the book’s namesake, of the Texas countryside when the grasses were high and they went on forever. As Eli rides the plains with the Indians, the descriptions of the countryside seemed to evoke the now long gone beauty and purity of the natural surroundings. The Indians certainly weren’t romanticized, but one did get a feeling from reading this book that our lives now are smaller in many ways than back when the Indians ruled or roamed the plains. When Eli returns from his captivity, his life back with the whites seems so confining and almost stultifying.
Eli, although he has a good and moral side, is also a man who stops at nothing to get what he wants and stops at nothing to defend his family. His ultimate greed, violence, and excess sets up one of the novels themes of justice or payback. I love the way that justice plays out in the end. It’s like history looping back on itself as we finally find out what has happened to Jeanne McCullough, the Colonel’s (Eli’s) great -granddaughter.
I thought the ending of the book with the Colonel was perfect, too. The nine-year-old Indian boy following after the Colonel was like an echo of Eli’s earlier days and just seemed such a fitting way to end.
“When the people were finished we killed every living dog and horse. I took the chief’s bladder for a tobacco pouch; it was tanned and embroidered with beads. In his shield, stuffed between the layers, was Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
WHEN THE SUN came up, we discovered a boy of nine years. We left him as a witness. At noon we reached the river and saw the boy had followed us with his bow—for twenty miles he had kept up with men on horseback—for twenty miles he had been running to his death. A child like that would be worth a thousand men today. We left him standing on the riverbank. As far as I know he is looking for me yet.”
(Kindle Locations 8290-8295).
This ending speaks to one of the major themes of the book, that of the rise and fall of empires. The empire could be the American west, the Comanche nation, OR , in this case, the McCullough family. All are doomed to fall. People are getting soft. This passage where Jeanne McCullough is thinking, states this change perfectly.
”But the slackening. By five she and her brothers were throwing loops. By ten she was at the branding fire. Her grandchildren were not good at anything and did not have much interest in anything either. She wondered if the Colonel would even recognize them as his descendants, felt briefly defensive for them, but of course it was true. Something was happening to the human race.
That is what all old people think, she decided…
When the first men arrived, she told them, there were mammoths, giant buffalo, giant horses, saber-toothed tigers, and giant bears. The American cheetah—the only animal on earth that could outrun a pronghorn antelope.
Her grandsons … went inside to watch television.”
(Kindle Locations 7882-7892).
Where the Colonel is hard and ruthless, His son, Peter, is almost the opposite. He has taken on the guilt of his father’s excesses and is compassionate and caring. I loved his character. I listened to the book and thought Peter’s voice was fantastic! What a great narrator. His voice seemed to take on the sadness and guilty burden that Peter carried with him. And I loved Peter’s story. Early on we find out the Peter has committed some act that has made him a pariah to the family. Since he seems so sensitive, moral, and thoughtful, it is hard to imagine what this act could be. That sets up a wonderful tension that carries on through the novel.
I just now saw a McCullough family tree diagram in the front of the Kindle edition! Seeing that earlier would have saved me a lot of initial confusion. The story sprawls out over many generations and flips back and forth a lot. I was listening to the book most of the time and was a bit confused until about 200 pages in as to who the characters were and how they fit together. It all fell into place, and I enjoyed putting together the puzzle pieces, but I think referring to the family tree in the beginning would have been great, too.
Say something about yourself!
Loved this family saga...very rich with wonderful character development & gripping storyline. The narration was particularly good as was the historical significance with the development of Texas.
Well worth the time to listen!!!
YES....from the eyes and (ears) of a native Texan, this novel sits well on the shelves
with spellbinding epic novels such as 'Giant' and 'Lonesome Dove'. Do not miss
I cannot wait for the next novel from Philipp Meyer.
Let's just say I finished the book this morning and wish it was not yet over. I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. I've read some of the reviews that talked about how the story of Eli was the only "compelling" story of the three; but I thought Peter's story was the part with the most "heart". He wanted the truth to be told during a time when the family and their lackeys wanted only the legend. The narrator of Peter's story was full of emotion and really conveyed what Peter was feeling.
The choice of Will Patton (Col. Dan Weaver from Falling Skies) and Kate Mulgrew (Capt. Janeway of Start Trek Voyager) were terrific choices. Will Patton did a really good job.
Peter was the most memorable. Perhaps it was the narration, or perhaps the story itself, but Peter with all his faults and his desire to do the right while not having the guts to stand up to the Colonel was the better story.
The Son is rich in history, and is told over 150 year period of time from 3 perspectives. I like the way it all came together at the end, like watching three almost-parallel lines finally intersect. I recommend this book for the listener who likes history, westerns, or even a bit of romance. The book was a little "graphic" in parts, and there was the use of the F-Bomb and other profanity throughout, but not enough to make me put it down or decrease my 5-star rating. Hopefully Philipp Meyer will do something else as good. I'll have to check out "American Rust" and see how good that one is.
The colonel and the life of the commanche.
Will Patton was nothing short of amazing.
No, just a great book.
It was three (really four) stories and narrators, not always well woven together. I thought that scheme was somewhat awkward. Also, I found the ending unsatisfying.
Yes. In spite of my criticisms, I did enjoy the book.
I could listen to Will Patton read the phone book. He is among my favorites. In this case he was perfect as Eli.
Will Patton is the perfect reader for Eli McCullough. He is the highlight among a very strong cast for this book -- my favorite audiobook of all time.
I have listened to it twice, which I have never done for any other audiobook.