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The Son Kindle Edition
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|Length: 580 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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As far as content and likability of the characters and stories; I like gritty westerns, not bonanza family entertainment westerns, I like knowing that life was hard, tough and unpleasant in order to make the story come alive. I read till the end and realized that the story ended up going full circle in the end and you became aware of why and how the main character turned out like he did.
My suggestion is if you want to read this book, understand it goes back and forth between time periods so it builds the case and builds your understanding why the characters are who they are and how they became what they are.... AND
that's about it.....you will either enjoy or like the characters or dislike some of them, which is the point of a good read. Also if you are reading this after you started the AMC show, understand liberties were taken and generations of the characters have been changed, i.e. the Granddaughter in the Show is actually the Great Grand Daughter in the book and the Garcia ranch is destroyed and they are all killed in the beginning..in the show, nope, they are pretty much made out to be just neighbors with periodic conflicts. I know that this leaves room in the show for multiple seasons so the story doesn't just wrap up in one season. So there ya go!
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".