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.
This is an epic story of Eli McCullough who is captured and lives three years with Comanches. It explores five generations of the McCullough family as well as several layers Texas culture from the Apaches and Comanches, to the Mexicans (aka Tejanos), to the White men and Vaqueros and back to the Apaches. Any romantic views you have about the men of these tribes will disappear quickly. I liked the characters as individuals but hated what they did to each other. The book is bloody and brutal but you wont be able to stop listening.
The alliances among these groups and McCullough family members shift with the winds. . Because of those changes, as well as the way the story unfolds, it was difficult to keep track of each character's place on the family tree. Play close attention to the opening of each chapter which tells you who is speaking and what the year is or you too will be lost,
Will Patton voices Eli to perfection. He draws you in from the opening scene. The other narrators are equally effective,
I give this book five stars for just about every aspect of writing and storytelling. Phillip Meyer is a fabulous writer and I look forward to reading other books by him.
The parts I enjoyed concerned the details of life with the Comanche.
I don't think I would give this a strong recommendation because the entire book was difficult for me to follow - the story line jumps back and forth. I found the lack of continuity confusing, often wondering if I'd accidentally skipped some essential part of the story. The ending may have been true to life but was not satisfying.
I believe the story overall was interesting due to the history and details covered. I really did not care for the fragmented manner in which it was told, however. I wanted to quit several times out of frustration.
I loved the first chapter. Then everything fell apart for me and never came back together again. While the author covered a lot of ground in the story, the character development was exceedingly flawed. The great grandaughter was the worst though all of them just picked up character traits like one would collect lint, without rhyme or reason. I think the author tried to make good points about the development of Texas and I just wished those points had been wrapped in a better story. I had intended to get American Rust but didn't bother after this disappointment.
Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories.
“There were people who ate the earth and those that stood around and watched them do it.”
So said Lillian Hellman in “The Little Foxes”, and the quote is apt for the McCullough dynasty in “The Son”. For all of its ambition to present a sweeping epic of Texas history through the eyes of three generational representatives, these three characters came across as soulless and selfish, with no clear motivations for their lives, simply grasping for what they could acquire no matter the cost or who had to pay it – generally the Mexicans and other family members.
Eli’s story is admittedly the most colorful, with his abduction by the Comanches, his life with them, and afterwards in the Texas Rangers and the Confederate Army. But none of it ever felt as adventurous as expected. Much of it was just gruesome and murderous, but quite emotionless, even for the victims. The ease with which he changed allegiances, killing without conscience the enemy of the moment, spoke of a man with no soul or direction. Love was just as empty, expressed almost exclusively in sophomoric sexual terms (and too often with barnyard vocabulary).
Peter (Eli’s son) and Jeannie (Eli’s great granddaughter) each eventually inherit to various degrees the empire, but exist only through the prism of Eli’s life – Peter hating him and Jeannie mythologizing him. Neither ever feel adequate with themselves, so they are weak and inadequate characters, and I found them essentially sterile. Lacking heartfelt emotions, I felt nothing for them. All background characters were just that: background and generally one-dimensional, too often stereotyped.
Narration – 2/3’s good. Patton and Shepherd did well with Eli and Peter. Kate Mulgrew to my ears was grating and rough, trying too hard to portray a tough Texas gal, which just came across as a whiskey roughened broad, often indistinguishable from the male voices.
I know this is a dissenting vote – most reviewers loved the book. I felt it was cynical and spoke to the futility of life spent only on building dynasties and not relationships. I'll give it three stars for ambition and many of the well written passages, but I found little inspiring or uplifting to recommend it.
I have literally a few thousand audible books, I have Parkinson's, always an avid reader. I tend toward horror, paranormal, love Vampires .
One of the only books I reccomend to every new listener ! Top 10 !
When Will Patton is finally accepted into the Comanche tribe as a warrior . At first it was the menial womens tasks he was assigned to.
So , so much . Will Patton is such a wonderful narrator , as always expresses every emotion passionately. Kate Mullgrew was the supreme choice for the mcCullough's daughter. She would have to be a certain type of gruff and tough woman. Since I'm not really sure of the other 2 narrators, they did well. One of the guys though, third generation was annoying with his wimpy whiner voice .
Mr. Mc Culloughs the most interesting of the character, the Patriarch. His experiences are so diverse and interesting. And also very unpredictable. I really am disappointed by predictable stories.
Just that everyone I have recommended this book to has given me positive feedback . Most books I get excited about no one comments to me. It's a big roller coaster . Laugh alot, cry alot.
While people differ in their capability to fight, the fighting spirit of the south in the civil war much less Texans, make the behavior of the mom & older brother unrealistic. It reads more like a backward projection of contemporary values.
Retired CFO, Army wife, Mom of five, Grandma of six, two sons who served in combat, love to read books that reflect my values and faith, love mysteries, historical, military stories, and books that don't waste my time . . . if it doesn't have an ending that was worth the wait, I'm not a happy camper.
This story of the west, and the men who settled there, taking it from the Indians and Mexicans is one of the most interesting, detailed accounts I've ever come across. Although a work of fiction, the historically accurate story follows several generations of one family, beginning when a young white boy is kidnapped and raised by a tribe of Indians . . . and continues up to current time. The settling of the west was not "Little House on the Prairie" by a long shot . . . Even now, after listening to THE SON, I'm not entirely sure that I like most of those who chose to tame the west . . . and sold their souls in the process. The almighty dollar, oil wells, and greed abound . . . yet there is a fierceness, a loyalty, a code that cannot be denied . . . you will have to listen for yourself . . . and decide who and what about this family that you respect . . . and in the end what is really worth the sacrifice.
I prefer a more linear narrative. Many times I could not grasp how the 3 main and one finale characters had affected each other with the jumps in time. Also the audio just wasn't on and this really showed in the intro and exits.
I found his background facts interesting and added a great deal to the story/stories. This is particularly true with the early indian times and "Plan of San Diego" (1915-1918) times.
Although I had heard of the mexican revolution involving the use of US military under Gen Black Jack Pershing the border troubles and killings of 1915-1918 were new and interesting to me.
I would be willing to try another Philipp Meyer book if I was sure it would be a beginning to end style of narrative. This book was like popcorn, air popped, with no butter or salt. Jumping around in time without much lasting flavor. Some people like there popcorn that way but not enough to to find it sold in movie theaters.
My download sounded over modulated. I enjoyed the actors and found their timing excellent. It was more on the technical side of the audio book.
None although I was not fond of the use of a "diary" to tell a story.
This book just became tedious to listen to, and I would have to force myself to finish it. Not one likable character out of the three major ones, and the only interesting character was Eli, the original patriarch of the Texas family. The characters were not well-rounded, and I found it difficult to even care what happened to any of them.
The violence and lack of any sort of warmth or affection was also a severe turn-off. Even one character's love affair with a woman seemed more based on guilt and obsession than anything real.
The only reason I even awarded it two stars was because some historical research seemed to have been done for the book, and it was interesting reading about some of the history of the times in this area.
The final ending was an unrealistic bore, sounding phony and contrived, as though the author was trying a little too hard for "poetic justice." His theme, "the chickens will come home to roost," was beaten over your head just a little too much.
The narrators were all great, and I awarded them 5 stars.