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
Starting 2/14 (for love of family and time-benefit of readers), I'll limit reviews to 100 words or less with exceptions for the exceptional
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.
I LOVE books. And dogs & quilting & beading & volunteering.
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.
" I have my mind... & a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge." -T.L.
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.
In "The Son," Philipp Meyer allows us to follow the triumphs and misfortunes of the McCullough family. It also parallels the the rise of Texas, and thus the McCullough's fate is symbolic of the destiny of the state. Spanning more than 150 years, Meyer takes us from Texas' independence through both World Wars and into modern times.
The book is written through the eyes of three McCullough family members (and near the end a fourth is added): Eli McCullough, the family patriarch; Eli's son Peter; and Jeannie McCullough, Eli's great-granddaughter. Each generation has its own crises to deal with and the history of the times are seamlessly added. The format is consistent with a diary or memoir told by these three characters.
Eli's story was the most interesting to me. His family was attacked by a Comanche raiding party and Eli kidnapped at the tender young age of 13. Initially a slave, Eli would prove his worth and eventually was accepted as a full member of the tribe. He did not have too much difficulty adapting to the new culture, and the Comanche lifestyle seemed to be made just for him. In fact, he had more trouble assimilating to the white man's culture when he returned to it. He joined the Texas Rangers to help himself adapt as it was the closest thing to the Comanche lifestyle that he could find. Blessed with the gift of long life, Eli was over 100 years old when he died. Eli's story started during Texas' independence from Mexico in 1836 and ended during the great depression of the 1930's.
Next was Peter McCullough, Eli's son who was known as the "great disappointment." Peter's story took place in the years around World War I and focused on his philosophical differences with his father and the problems between the whites and the Mexicans in the area surrounding the McCullough ranch in southern Texas. In my opinion, Peter was too compassionate to succeed in the tough Texas landscape and was destined to be the outcast of the McCullough family. It seemed rather ironic that this trait would lead to the downfall of Peter McCullough.
The final point of view followed Jeannie McCullough from the era of the great depression through the time period surrounding the dawning of the 21st century. Living in a man's world, Jeannie suffered the discrimination directed toward women during the time period covered. She learned the skills required to succeed in the cattle business and was better at most things than her brothers, yet she was discouraged from these activities. She was responsible for the transformation of the ranch's main business from cattle to oil, which had been started by Eli before his death.
The performances in this offering were superb. Each of the main characters had a dedicated narrator, thus leaving no doubt as to the identity of the speaker. Also, each narrator was able to convey the emotions associated with the circumstances occurring at the time. I think listening to this was a far more enjoyable experience than simply reading would have been.
I did not really like this book, but also did not dislike it. With the exception of Eli's story, it seemed to lack the substance to grab my attention and interest. Also, I was not able to form a connection with any of the characters. Additionally, I did not care for the inclusion of the Spanish and Comanche languages without corresponding translations into English. Although it was not excessive, there were enough instances to be annoying. For these reasons, I rated this book 3 stars, an average read in my opinion.
This story was too large of a time period to enjoy. There were so many characters in the novel that it was hard to remember who was who and in what time span. He could have written a mini series and focused on one time period per book instead.
It is definitely a bleak novel in following the history of the three members of the McCullough family. I was definitely glad when the novel was over. A lot of people raved about this book, however, I can only give it an average rating.
I love the narrator, Will Patton, but wish Phillipp Meyer had written a better book for him to read.
I appreciated the historical context of conflicts among White newcomers, Indians, and Mexicans as well as the background of Texas cattle and oil. I did not like the characters and, without a plot, their stories grew tiresome.
Slow to get started. Pace and promise of an important book as it progresses. Then the narrative and storyline blows apart as the author feels around in the dark for a conclusion. Harsh? Maybe, but I was left so disappointed that it failed to make something out of some great raw material. The eventual weaving of the three story lines into "the son" is a heavy handed morality lesson. Jarring and inauthentic based on the profiles of the personalities that proceed it. The best part of the book is the performance of the various narrators. All of whom exceed the material.
The story felt disjointed. The geography seemed off ( native Texan here) There were long drawn out sections of minimal interest and parts that felt rushed that could have been fleshed out for a more interesting read. Overall it left me feeling bummed and not really caring about the characters.
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.
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