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281 of 303 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absorbing family saga that echoes through time and crosses cultures
Richly imagined from the fecund history of the Lone Star State arrives THE SON, an absorbing family saga that echoes through time and crosses cultures to chronicle the life and legacy of fictional patriarch Colonel Eli McCullough, the first male child born in the new Republic of Texas on March 2, 1836.

Author Philipp Meyer's magnificent stylistic gifts, which I...
Published 13 months ago by Evelyn A. Getchell

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83 of 97 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 2 1/2 Stars -- Too Disjointed And Lacks A Central Plot For Me To Recommend!
The Son is positioned as an epic multigenerational saga of Texas and the settlement of the American West that follows the rise of one family from the Comanche raids of the mid-19th century to the border wars of the early 20th century to the oil and mineral booms of the modern era.

Meyer tackles a breadth of territory in this work and while The Son has many...
Published 12 months ago by Bobbewig


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281 of 303 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absorbing family saga that echoes through time and crosses cultures, May 26, 2013
This review is from: The Son (Hardcover)
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Richly imagined from the fecund history of the Lone Star State arrives THE SON, an absorbing family saga that echoes through time and crosses cultures to chronicle the life and legacy of fictional patriarch Colonel Eli McCullough, the first male child born in the new Republic of Texas on March 2, 1836.

Author Philipp Meyer's magnificent stylistic gifts, which I first discovered in his debut novel American Rust: A Novel [DECKLE EDGE] (Hardcover), are deployed once again to maximum advantage to give full expression to the heart and soul of the American Western Frontier. Profound with anthropological, cultural and social subtexts, the commanding narrative of THE SON, in the refreshing absence of hyperbole and Western clichés, tells a realistic story built upon tension, tragedy and violence to transform an Old World into the New.

I was so captivated by the lives and doings of the McCullough family, the Comanche Indians and the other interconnected families on both sides of the Texas/Mexico border of this story, that for the past few days I've found myself in an altered state of mind, doing little else but reading this novel as fast as I could but not wanting it to end. When I did reach the last page yesterday, THE SON continued to gallop full speed across the plains of my imagination. I have yet to come to a halt and the story continues to insinuate itself intellectually and emotionally into my mind.

THE SON may be a familiar story of the American West but the Philipp Meyer's voice is distinctly his own. He has captured the tempestuous spirit of a wild, untamed land and made it ululate so that its emotional resonance covers many decades and still reverberates in the modern era.

This is a piece of historic fiction that - in the strength of its prose and the grip of its narrative, in the sweep of its events and the plausibility of its timeline, in the scrupulous authenticity of its cultures and their changing social circumstances, in the reconstruction of its geography and natural world, in the persuasiveness of its characters and their dialogue, and in the inevitable ebb and flow of their fortunes - is destined to become a classic of American literature.
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112 of 121 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Place Without Mercy, June 2, 2013
This review is from: The Son (Hardcover)
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There is nothing small about the state of Texas nor is there anything small about this epic masterpiece of a novel, which will surely catapult Philipp Meyer into the ranks of the finest American novelists.

What he has accomplished is sheer magic: he has turned the American dream on its ear and revealed it for what it really is: "soil to sand, fertile to barren, fruit to thorns." The most astounding thing is, you don't know how good it really is until you close the last page and step back and absorb what you have just experienced.

There are three key characters in this book: Colonel Eli McCullough, kidnapped by the Comanche tribe at an early age and forced to navigate the shaky ground between his life as a white settler and his life as a respected adoptee-turned-Comanche warrior...his son, Peter, the moral compass of the story who resorts to self-hatred after the massacre of his Mexican neighbors...and Peter's granddaughter Jeanne, a savvy oil woman who has profited mightily from the land.

In ways, the three represent a wholeness of the Texas story: the id, the ego, and the superego of history. Philipp Meyer weaves back and forth among their stories and each one is compelling in its own way. Eli's is sheer adrenalin, a boy-man who is only slightly bothered by the constraints of society or conscience. Jeanne is a girl-woman with a head for the family business in a time and place where women are considered secondary to men.

And Peter, ah, Peter. He is "The Son", the diarist who sees the moral shadings, who realizes that not all life is a matter of economics, that the strong should not be encouraged while the weak perish, and that we do have choices in our actions. He notes "that the entire history of humanity is marked by a single inexorable movement - from animal instinct toward rational thought, from inbred behavior toward learned behavior and acquired knowledge." He is the heart and soul of Texas.

This American epic focuses on many themes. One is generational change and the progression from an agrarian and cattle-based economy to an oil-based economy. (Take these lines: "Of course there is no doubt that the Indian lives closer to the earth and the natural gods...Unfortunately, there is no more room or that kind of living, Eli. You and my ancestors departed from it the moment they buried a seed in the ground and ceased to wander like other creatures."

Another is man's inhumanity to man: the brutal land grab and the dehumanization of those who are considered "not belonging" by every single segment: the Comanches, the Mexicans, and above all, the whites who fight tooth and nail to take more of what's theirs.

And lastly, and most importantly, it is about the blood that runs through human history with Texas as a microcosm. Mr. Meyer writes, "The land was thirsty. Something primitive still in it, the land and people both; the only place like it she'd ever seen was Africa: savannah, perpetual heat and sun, thorns and blinding heat. A place without mercy. The birthplace of humanity." I'm predicting this book will be one of the most widely-read and talked-about this summer.
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104 of 116 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jaw-Dropping, June 5, 2013
This review is from: The Son (Kindle Edition)
Don't read this book because it's being called a masterpiece, or because Meyer is often compared to Faulkner, Hemingway, and Cormac McCarthy, or because it's being hailed as a new classic in the Western genre, or any similar reasons. Read it because it's a good read, a damn good story that's well told.

Westerns aren't everyone's cup of tea. There are only so many hard-bitten, quick-thinking anti-heroes you can read about before the formula feels old.

This novel may technically be a Western, but it never falls into easy cliches or formulas. The characters are three dimensional, believable, and at times genuinely awesome. The opening pages, in which Eli McCullough dictates a brief outline of his life, plunges you into the world that you occupy for the rest of the book. It is a world of unthinkable hardship and cruelty, often with little sense of ethics or even empathy as most of us understand it. This, Meyer is saying, is how the west was won. One cruel warrior culture defeated another cruel warrior culture, paving the way for more gentle classes to move in. It's not a pretty tale, but it feels tangible and real.
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83 of 97 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 2 1/2 Stars -- Too Disjointed And Lacks A Central Plot For Me To Recommend!, July 9, 2013
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This review is from: The Son (Hardcover)
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The Son is positioned as an epic multigenerational saga of Texas and the settlement of the American West that follows the rise of one family from the Comanche raids of the mid-19th century to the border wars of the early 20th century to the oil and mineral booms of the modern era.

Meyer tackles a breadth of territory in this work and while The Son has many interesting "moments," it for me was more work than pleasure to get through. As such, while The Son is not a bad book, it is not one I would recommend highly. The basic reasons for this are as follows:

...Meyer, in trying to demonstrate the extensive research he did in preparing for this book, provides much too much detail for my taste. I found that rather than help to move the story along at an acceptable pace, the overabundance of detail tends to bog down the pace of the book;
...Meyer may have "bitten off more than he could chew" in covering such a breadth of time involving so many characters, in that you need a scorecard to keep track of who's who and what's what. This heavily contributed to my feeling that the book lacked a central theme and an engrossing plot; and, finally
...Meyer's writing style, in which he constantly jumps back and forth between one time period to another and between one character to another, made for a very disjointed and convoluted read. As a result, I rarely got to feel that I knew the characters deeply enough to care a lot about what happens to them.

As a consequence of the above reasons, while I'm not sorry I read The Son, I felt that I had to work too hard to force myself to finish it.
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66 of 80 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Life as they knew it did not exist without Texas.", May 30, 2013
This review is from: The Son (Hardcover)
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First of all, don't be daunted by the length of Philipp Meyer's new novel, "The Son", because it's action-packed and moves along at a good clip. Second, don't be influenced (one way or another) by comparisons that some have made to Cormack McCarthy. It's nothing like a McCarthy saga except for locations and subject matter. Third, a bit of a disclaimer: I identify myself as a Texan, and generally we Texans are very very proud of being Texans (upon hearing: "You Texans are so arrogant!" I normally just nod.) Thus I read this sweeping saga of Texas history with maybe more insight to, and enjoyment of, the subject matter than some. (When you grow up in Texas you get a LOT of Texas History in school. Plus I'm a graduate of The University of Texas where there is history in every nook and cranny.)

"The Son" is the story of several generations of the McCullough family told from alternating points of view in various times in history from the founding of the Republic (1836) to present day. This structure helps to propel the story and hold reader interest and Meyer does an excellent job of weaving these threads together. The novel is impeccably researched; I heard Philip Meyer on NPR talking about what he did to learn about how the Comanche's lived in the 19th century and it was clear he did extensive research and even physically participated in some Comanche rituals (including some that will make you think: yuck!) The tale is often very violent and Meyer doesn't elide over any of it. Frankly, the history of Texas is indeed bloody (and oily) and it's appropriately included to tell this tale. Some readers may have an issue with the graphic violence. Also the "N-word" is used for authenticity, and some readers need to be forewarned about that as well.

My only "quibble" (which is minor and wasn't enough to knock it down a star) was with some of the dialogue between protagonist Eli, as a teenager, and the Comanche youth. I had to adjust my ear because, although I know they were speaking Comanche and it was being translated for the reader, the slang and use of the F-word, seemed too modern. However, I reminded myself that it is totally believable that teens and young men of any day and age, develop a slang and use curse words when conversing with each other - even in the mid-1800s.

I've been talking about this book this week at work and many of my co-workers have made a note of it saying: "This will be a perfect Father's Day gift for my father/husband/son/brother!" But you don't have to be from Texas to be enthralled in this wonderful epic; I agree with my pal and fellow reviewer Evie, that this one has "classic" written all over it!
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Feel awed at the depth of the story - deja vu, June 8, 2013
By 
Manyjewels (FORT WORTH, TX, US) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Son (Hardcover)
This is a wonderful story of the gritty lives and times of a family who contributed to settling Texas and its surrounding states.

The story allows each character in the McCullough family to tell their personal story of events that not only shaped their individual lives but also the southwest as it exists today. I feel I know these characters, in one way or another. I live in Texas and am of an age where my life intersected lives of people like the McCulloughs. I have not known many, if any, people with the wealth of the McCulloughs, but I certainly recognized several personalities, tendencies, traits, and lunatics from my personal experiences with privileged Texans.

In my title of this review I mentioned "deja vu". As a child living in Cow Town (Fort Worth), which was mentioned several times in the book, I recall when the Texas oil and cattle barons and/or their progeny rode around town in their huge, shiny, new Cadillac Broughams and Cadillac fish tails every Sunday afternoon. They were all white men and their families, which usually consisted of a good-looking wife - not many children, if any. In the back window of their autos sat a large Stetson cowboy hat (usually beige or white) signifying their dedication to Texas culture, Cadillacs, and their allegiance to their lives of superiority, prominence, wealth and indulgence. These were the men who evolved from the Eli McCulloughs and their friends and relatives, although at that time in my young life I wondered who they really were. I say "evolved" because, while I don't believe they necessarily went across their yards and outright killed other families in cold blood, I know that an African-American or Mexican family, or any other "lower-classed" race, was not allowed to live in their neighborhoods. Unlike the McCulloughs, their work was usually done under cover of darkness and through manipulation of civil and criminal law; judges of the time were much like the judges in The Son, who sided with the desires of the privileged. It was a time of low-priced gas (they had 29 cent, or less, gas wars), when families could ride around town and enjoy just riding or going to the lush, green, well-kept parks or lakes (no water restrictions); almost everyone who owned a car rode after church, but these people rode in highest style of the time. I believe that's why so many African-Americans wanted a Cadillac, because they knew they could never have the big house in the best neighborhood, but maybe they could exhibit they had a small portion, in the form of fine clothes and a Cadillac. To these poor people, Cadillac had come to symbolize the biggest and best in big Texas. That sentiment still persists to this day for many.

There is still a settlement in Fort Worth that is trying to outlive the meaning of its name: "White Settlement". As I child, I knew, from friends and relatives, it was called White Settlement because other races, particularly African-Americans, were not allowed to move there, or visit, except as maids and help for the white populace. If an African-American or "other" attempted to relocate there, property harm and/or bodily harm would probably ensue. Now, they claim the name White Settlement did not result from their not wanting blacks and other races there (ha, ha). Today, it's a city that is struggling with aging properties and a poor population, although their policemen are considered some of the most aggressive in the DFW area.

The reason the McCullough family visited and frequently mentioned Fort Worth was because there was, on the north side of Fort Worth, a large abbatoir where most of the cattle were driven from other cities and towns to be slaughtered and distributed, hence, "Cow Town". Locally, it was called the "packing house". It was considered a very good job if an African-American or Mexican got a job there; it paid the poor more than most other local jobs. It was just as ugly and smelly as described in the book, as related to me by some who worked there. Cow Town now conducts mock cattle drives, where the cattle are herded toward the defunct packing house, just as they did way back in the day. It's a thriving tourist attraction for the area, along with its restaurants, western-style night clubs, western clothing, trinkets, and hatters - a true celebration of the legacy of those of the McCullough times and lifestyle.

Phillip Meyer created an excellent historical fiction story with characters who were alive then and are still alive today, albeit in different homes and clothes. I heard the whoops of the Native Americans, I smelled the food, saw the vaqueros, smelled the oil flowing, and saw the derricks pumping, dotting - and ruining - the once beautiful landscapes. I saw the soft-spoken, proper, well-dressed ladies in their homes planning debutante balls, parties and cotillions, waiting for their mostly absent husbands. I saw cowed blacks and Mexicans, people who were forced to find beauty not in their own lives but in the lives of their masters. I relived the feelings the white population had toward other "lesser" people, and I felt their desire for power and wealth overtake all reason and sanity in that quest. Indeed, I have experienced small portions of this while living, riding and looking at the local scenery.

This is a wonderful book that I recommend to everyone. It is very explicit, but only in the story context. I usually love mainly mysteries and thrillers, but this book had enough of everything to more than satisfy my varied and voracious reading appetites. I'm very happy the book was considered a best book of the month and happier that I experienced Phillip Meyer as an author.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful story-telling, June 6, 2013
This review is from: The Son (Hardcover)
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The Son is the story of three members of a family that settled in Texas beginning in the 1830's and continuing to the present. Meyer focuses on three outstanding members of that family: Eli, the first white child born in the territory, captured in a Comanche raid when he was ten; Peter, Eli's son, a disappointment to everyone, including himself; and Jeanne Anne, Eli's great-granddaughter, born too late, who might have been happier if she'd been a male.

All the praise for this book is well deserved. I've read many novels set in the American West -- novels that romanticize and novels that wallow in the violence. Meyer doesn't romanticize and he doesn't wallow. He relates the story of the McCollough family with all their strengths and flaws, and they have plenty of both.

As historical fiction, this is the best kind. There's no unnecessary exposition -- Meyer doesn't explain, he shows. This makes the book feel contemporary, like it was written by someone living in that time and place. There is a lot of story in this book -- adventure, risk-taking, power-seeking, revenge. I wasn't bored for a second. There were scenes that made my heart ache, and Meyer wrote them beautifully. There's also fun and humor, and some interesting tidbits about actual people, although they're not always named. I chuckled at Jeanne Anne's encounter with a famous novelist.

The story moves back and forth in time but it's not difficult to follow, and the story is well-suited to that structure. If it had been told in a linear fashion, the revelations at the end wouldn't have had such an impact. Meyer's writing style is clear and his dialogue is realistic. He treats his characters and his readers with respect.

I can't recommend this book enough.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Greatest Texas novel - worthy of its ambitious subject matter., June 5, 2013
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This review is from: The Son (Hardcover)
I cannot recommend this book highly enough, to all readers. I'm so excited to be one of the first to review it. Wow. Who is this outstanding author? This is an incredible epic, worthy of the huge subject matter - Texas and Texans (I am one!). Until now Lonesome Dove was THE Texas story and was and is still one of my favorite books, but The Son is so much more. The jacket cover shows a Very Young-looking author, and yet this book is written by an old, wise soul who knows human character and so many details about The Old South and its distinction from Texas, the ways of various native American tribes, the daily lives of ranchers, the business of oil, Texas history, the relations between races and classes. He either made it all up or somehow packed years of wide-ranging research into such a young life. The story pulled me in, but the language and the characters invite me to read slowly and savor. With a few words he captures a scene, a character, a situation and the drama of the moment. The conflict not only between but within the characters is real as is the folk wisdom of the characters. The character Eli in some ways brings the larger-than-life Sam Houston to mind, living as he does with the Comanches for a time although under different circumstances.

He brings out character through action. Heroism comes by accident or surprise or in desperation or out of shame. Bigotry shows it head when friends of different races or classes become enemies out of boredom or habit or principal. Loneliness comes from being yourself when others expect you to be more limited.

Take for example how Comanche courage is revealed in the description of how they hunt buffalo. "The animals were hunted with either a lance or a bow. Using the lance required a bit more backbone; you had to match the speed with the buffalo and drive the lance, one handed, through the ribs, through the lights and into the heart. At the first prick the animal would turn and try to gore you or crush you against the other running buffalo. The only safety was to go all in, give yourself totally to the lance, to use the animal's own weight to drive the point deeper. Unless you were crushed first."

The author time and again finds a single word or short phrase to evoke a huge image that would have taken a lesser writer pages to describe less perfectly - for example, a wild horse "sail fishing" while the cowboy tries to break him. 560 pages of this type of careful word selection. Yes please.

This author's first book was about a completely different subject - the Rust belt - which makes the detail in this book and all the research he must have done even more impressive.

If you start to get lost as the author changes voices from one character to the next, there is a very helpful genealogy at the front of the book. This would be difficult to refer to on a Kindle I think and besides this is a book you'll want on your bookshelf. I know I do.

Literature has been longing for this book. Thank you Mr. Meyer.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A story of a family and of a state, June 10, 2013
By 
Robert Frost (TX United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Son (Hardcover)
"The Son" fits the definitions of both epic for its scale and great American novel for its story. It is the story of the McCullough family, from around 1836 to 2012 told primarily from the perspectives of three family members. Eli McCullough, also referred to as "The Colonel", is the son of an Irish immigrant. The story begins with him as a child, near Fredericksburg, Texas, and follows him to his 100th birthday. Peter McCullough is Eli's son. Much of his story is told during the period of World War I. Jeanne McCullough is Peter's granddaughter. Her story is told from around 1936 to 2012.

More than just the story of a single family, "The Son" is a story of Texas. We see settlement and conflict between white settlers and the Commanche and then the Mexicans. We see the establishment of Statehood and the secession of the Civil War. We see the ups and downs of cattle ranching and oil.

The narrative is structured by rotating through the three POVs (points of view) - a chapter from Eli's perspective, a chapter from Peter's perspective, a chapter from Jeanne's perspective and then back to Eli, and so on. All three characters have engaging stories to tell. Eli's is the most exciting, dealing with events such as his capture by Commanche, serving as a Texas Ranger, fighting in the Civil War, and establishing his ranch. Peter's is the most intellectually engaging and as he struggles with the ethics and morality of his family and the other white settlers with regards to their treatment of Mexican neighbors. Jeanne's story is the most emotional as she struggles with establishing her place in both the ranching and oil businesses, in times where women didn't have a place in either.

Because Eli lives to be 100, he has roles in both Peter's and Jeanne's stories. He is the patriarch of the family - the standard by which every later generation is judged. Eli is a fascinating character. He is a person that sees what he wants and he takes it. It's a personality that is essential to survive and succeed in the dangerous world he inhabits. But that way of life is uncomfortable for Peter, whom suffers because he never takes what he wants and for Jeanne whom is often prohibited from taking what she wants.

The author, Philipp Meyer, received a Michener fellowship that brought him to Austin, Texas. He spent five years researching this novel, learning about the time periods, visiting the locales, and developing the skills his characters needed. His research brings a strong sense of authenticity to the novel. The scenes are easy to visualize, down to the mesquite trees and prickly pear cacti and the blazing heat of Texas. The voices sound real and the characters have a realism that allows this novel to deconstruct the American creation myth in a fascinating way. As one of the characters says, in the book, "No one got anything without taking it from someone else." Meyer doesn't assign titles of good guy or bad guy to any of the conflicts in the novel, rather he represents everyone as behaving according to human nature. The white settlers take land away from Mexican settlers, whom took it away from Indians, whom had taken it away from other Indians.

The timing of my reading of this novel worked out really well. During reading the book, I visited the five remaining Spanish missions in San Antonio. The story of those missions is reflected in the story of "The Son". A story of adapt or perish in a harsh yet beautiful world.

The one flaw I would assign to the book is a flaw I have noticed in many of the longer novels I've recently read (The Son is 561 pages). That flaw is an awkward acceleration of pace in the last twenty-percent of the book. As we get closer to the end, we race faster to that end and the narratives become more abrupt and edited. I really would have liked to see another hundred pages so that some of the final events could be told with the same rich level of detail as the bulk of the book. But, I guess when one finishes a book and wishes there were more, that's better than the alternative.

I recommend "The Son".
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52 of 65 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Dallas" meets "Lonesome Dove", June 13, 2013
By 
Wynne Gillis (Bozeman, Montana USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Son (Hardcover)
My title about sums it up. This book abounds in stereotypes--the Texas Ranger/ Indian fighter, the tough oilman (this one's a woman), the butchered settler families, etc. The only twist is that the main victims are the orginal Spanish settlers. I've read many novels along these lines and this is by no means the best. ("Lonesome Dove" probably is.)
I found the constant point of view and time period shifts hard to follow. It is probably best read at one gulp--a long airplane ride, for instance. When I came back to it, I found it hard to remember where I was and which plot I was in.
All that being said, the plot does gallop along and I found myself caught up in it.
Okay, but not great.
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The Son
The Son by Philipp Meyer (Hardcover - May 28, 2013)
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