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The Son | [Philipp Meyer]

The Son

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: Eli McCullough is 13 years old when a marauding band of Comanches takes him captive. Brave and clever, Eli quickly adapts to life among the Comanches, learning their ways and waging war against their enemies, including white men - which complicates his sense of loyalty and understanding of who he is.
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Publisher's Summary

Audie Award Finalist, Literary Fiction, 2014

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: Eli McCullough is 13 years old when a marauding band of Comanches takes him captive. Brave and clever, Eli quickly adapts to life among the Comanches, learning their ways 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.

©2013 Philipp Meyer (P)2013 HarperCollinsPublishers

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  •  
    Elle in the Great NorthWest Beaverton, OR, United States 09-23-13
    Elle in the Great NorthWest Beaverton, OR, United States 09-23-13

    I LOVE books. And dogs & quilting & beading & volunteering.

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    "Excellent Audiobook-Highly Recommended (spoiler)"

    A true saga of a Texas family from early frontier days to the 1990s portrayed by 3 excellent actors who really were their parts-this was a 'listen all day' kinda book. I'm glad I had a rainy sunday to spend lazing on the couch and totally getting into the stories that were related of 3 generations of the McCullough family...

    Kudos especially to Will Patton, Kate Mulgrew and Scott Shepherd for their interpretations of Eli, Jennie and Peter-I was really *there* listening to them...at Cherokee campsites, at the frustrations of a feminist who didn't know she was a feminist dealing with men who didn't take her seriously and at frustrated Peter who loved a woman forbidden by racial restrictions to him.

    These narrators/actors wouldn't have been nearly as successful without the wonderful novel..one of those books MADE for audiobook...by Phillip Meyer. A true saga of a book that puts Edna Ferber's "Giant" to shame..made me see how 'Hollywood"Giant was.

    ***spoiler here***** My only disappointment - and it was truly because I wanted a 'happy-there-gotcha ending' was having the last Garcia child ride hell bent for leather back over the Rio Grande when I so wanted Jennie to accept him as a true son of the family. Well..guess I wanted a 'Hollwyood ' ending there and it didn't happen.****end spoiler***

    Congratulations to all involver for a fantastic novel that kept this listener glued to the iPad.

    8 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    W Perry Hall 02-01-14 Member Since 2015

    Easy Writer

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    "My Best Audible; Greek epic of cowboys and Indians"

    I cannot add much more to the great reviews of this novel by listeners, readers and critics. I loved the literary devices used to tell this spectacular story of a Texas family, which is, in many ways, reminiscent of a Greek tragedy.

    This is, by a long shot, the best book I've listened to. The best material by the best narrators. I also read it, but I can't be as bold in my assessment of the book in print.

    I finished this in July and am just now sitting down to write a review. The novel sticks with you like any great piece of art, be it a novel, movie, painting or song.

    I cannot recommend this enough.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ryan Somerville, MA, United States 09-25-13
    Ryan Somerville, MA, United States 09-25-13 Member Since 2005

    Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.

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    "The violence of history"

    “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.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard 08-20-13
    Richard 08-20-13 Member Since 2011
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    "Petered out toward the end"
    Is there anything you would change about this 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.


    Would you recommend The Son to your friends? Why or why not?

    Yes. In spite of my criticisms, I did enjoy the book.


    What does the narrators bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read 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.


    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    G.Monie Queens, NY, United States 08-19-13
    G.Monie Queens, NY, United States 08-19-13 Member Since 2015

    " I have my mind... & a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge." -T.L.

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    "Great Read for Preconceptions of Oil & 'Wild West'"

    I read this book after reading a review from a person who I've trusted on a number of books & she has not left me down with any novels yet... This book is quite the historical fiction that is able to contain complex metaphors, multiple-generational-long end life crisis's a human might go thru. In this case its thru the eyes of a family that spans over a hundred years but starts with one, larger than life character... Eli McCullough, a man who was taken when he was a boy by one of the most ruthless group of Indians in history, the Comanches.

    Eli lives thru this ordeal to become an accepted part of the tribe & I found myself wanting to hear more & more, by the end I could have listened to the whole book if it was just about Eli & his POV on his life with a smaller concentration of the other characters in the book although they were not uninteresting, the combination of Will Patton's narration, life trials he went thru in the hands of 'savages' & then the life trials he went thru once returning to 'civilized society,' & of course the authors style of writing containing the vivid descriptions, POV analysis from a man with this unique background, metaphoric & real life issues he conquers in his own way which then reach way beyond his mere life but into the lives of the other character POV's... Eli's timid, yet 'educated & civilized' son Peter who has trouble bridging the gap between him & his father or even understanding the gap that separates them & great-grand daughter Jeannie who doesn't have this father-son problem but a much larger gender bias in a time where the oil barrons of Texas were making they're marks in histrory.

    The chapters go by & each one is a POV of one of the characters plus a surprise one near the end & u see what it meant to have a father or any number of other family members as the family name grows to represent the rugged, wild state of Texas & perhaps in a real cheesy analogy why no one 'messes with Texas' lol. I enjoyed this book because listening to the internal dialogue of a completely dominate alpha male, a 'boy' who is essentially the polar opposite of his father but is too 'weak willed' to show anyone around him he is the rightful heir or should be taken seriously, & finally a woman in a man's business that finds a way to continue & grow the family legacy bigger than ever until the climactic end where the entries of an old man, love-sick son, & slowly growing 'senile' matriarch show the inner workings of their minds to readers. This climatic end should not be revealed because everything leading up to it foreshadows much of what happens but it is up to the reader to be able to try & imagine what this life that at least I've only ever heard about, & in this case read about. With the narration & writing I would most def. put this piece up there with parts of the 'Lonesome Dove Series' & other Western novels.

    Put on ur war paint & take a small look into the eye's of death from 3 different POV stemming from the same biological start because even Eli ends up giving a POV that seems like an entirely diff. person before & after his Native American experiences... Great book, just wish there was more 'Patton' & 'Eli' because it was at the least one of the more intriguing perspectives an American can try to imagine.

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laurie Florence, KY, United States 08-15-13
    Laurie Florence, KY, United States 08-15-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Lived up to the hype"

    I read "American Rust", so I already knew that Mr Meyer was a talented author, and this book reinforces my belief. Great sweeping novel, a bit like a Lonesome Dove, and well worth a listen. My only complaint is that Scott Shepherd can sound really whiney after a while!

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Janice Sugar Land, TX, United States 08-03-14
    Janice Sugar Land, TX, United States 08-03-14 Member Since 2010

    Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories.

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    "Morally bankrupt dynasty"

    “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.

    9 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Phillip Virginia Beach, VA, United States 07-11-15
    Phillip Virginia Beach, VA, United States 07-11-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Characters don't ring true."

    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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Debbie Toney, Alabama 12-31-14
    Debbie Toney, Alabama 12-31-14 Member Since 2013

    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.

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    "Generational Tale of Grit, Greed, Love and War"

    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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laura 05-12-14
    Laura 05-12-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Great book ruined by one of the four narrators"
    What did you love best about The Son?

    Detailed research and knowledge of early Texas history


    What did you like best about this story?

    History of Texas from all points of view


    What does the narrators bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    I really loved three of the four narrators, however, Kate Mulgrew is the worst narrator I've ever heard on any Audible recording. Whoever picked her to voice a Texan has never been south of the Red River. She has no clue what a west Texas accent or any other Texas accent sounds like, and so she simply affects a broadly exaggerated hick voice. Her twang was a caricature and made her parts of the story hard to listen to.


    The other narrators, Will Patton and Scott Shepherd especially, were terrific and more authentic. Why didn't anyone let Kate listen to them before she embarrassed herself with her part?


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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