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The Son Paperback – January 28, 2014
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A TV Series on AMC starring Pierce Brosnan and co-written by Philipp Meyer.
Now in paperback, the critically acclaimed, New York Times bestselling epic, a saga of land, blood, and power that follows the rise of one unforgettable Texas family from the Comanche raids of the 1800s to the oil booms of the 20th century.
Part epic of Texas, part classic coming-of-age story, part unflinching examination of the bloody price of power, The Son is a gripping and utterly transporting novel that maps the legacy of violence in the American west with rare emotional acuity, even as it presents an intimate portrait of one family across two centuries.
Eli McCullough is just twelve-years-old when a marauding band of Comanche storm his Texas homestead and brutally murder his mother and sister, taking him as a captive. Despite their torture and cruelty, Eli--against all odds--adapts to life with the Comanche, learning their ways, their language, taking on a new name, finding a place as the adopted son of the chief of the band, and fighting their wars against not only other Indians, but white men, too-complicating his sense of loyalty, his promised vengeance, and his very understanding of self. But when disease, starvation, and westward expansion finally decimate the Comanche, Eli is left alone in a world in which he belongs nowhere, neither white nor Indian, civilized or fully wild.
Deftly interweaving Eli’s story with those of his son, Peter, and his great-granddaughter, JA, The Son deftly explores the legacy of Eli’s ruthlessness, his drive to power, and his life-long status as an outsider, even as the McCullough family rises to become one of the richest in Texas, a ranching-and-oil dynasty of unsurpassed wealth and privilege.
Harrowing, panoramic, and deeply evocative, The Son is a fully realized masterwork in the greatest tradition of the American canon-an unforgettable novel that combines the narrative prowess of Larry McMurtry with the knife edge sharpness of Cormac McCarthy.
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“With its vast scope, The Son makes a viable claim to be a Great American Novel of the sort John Dos Passos and Frank Norris once produced... an extraordinary orchestration of American history. — Washington Post
“There is an extravagant quantity of birth, death and bitter passion in Philipp Meyer’s grand and engrossing Texas saga.” — Wall Street Journal
“Philipp Meyer offers a tale that spans generations and, in its own way, encapsulates the history of the state itself.” — Los Angeles Times
“As bold, ambitious and brutal as its subject: the rise of Texas as seen through the tortured history of one family. At 561 pages, The Son is a demanding read... But by the end, Meyer ties it together and not too neatly. Tougher-than-tough Eli McCullough would respect that.” — USA Today (4 Stars)
“One of the most solid, unsparing pieces of American historical fiction to come out this century... a brilliant chronicle of Texas... stunning, raw and epic... The Son is vast, brave and, finally, unstoppable.” — NPR
“This is the book you want to read this summer... Every facet of Meyer’s world--scent and sight and sensation--has weight and heft... Meyer’s dream is a nightmare in which blood seeks power. It’s also un-put-down-able.” — Esquire
“A novel that is an epic in the truest sense of the word: massive in scope, replete with transformations in fortune and fate, and drenched in the blood of war.” — Huffington Post
“The stuff of Great American Literature. Like all destined classics, Meyer’s second novel speaks volumes about humanity--our insatiable greed, our inherent frailty, the endless cycle of conquer or be conquered.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Treading on similar ground to James Michener, Larry McMurtry, and Cormac McCarthy, Meyer brings the bloody, racially fraught history of Texas to life. Call it a family saga or an epic, this novel is a violent and harrowing read.” — Library Journal
“An old-fashioned family saga set against the birth of Texas and the modern West, this is a riveting slow burn of love, power, and a legacy of violence spanning generations. Meyer is a writer of vast ambition and talent, and he has created nothing less than an American epic.” — Parade
“The greatest things about The Son are its scope and ambition. . . It’s an enveloping, extremely well-wrought, popular novel with passionate convictions about the people, places and battles that it conjures.” — New York Times
“The author of The Yellow Birdssays Philipp Meyer’s novel The Son has ‘as much to say about what it means to be American as any book I’ve ever read.’” — New York Times Book Review, By the Book interview with Kevin Powers
“By the novel’s end, Philipp Meyer has demonstrated that he can write a potboiler of the first rank, aswirl with pulpy pleasures: impossible love affairs, illicit sex, strife between fathers and sons, the unhappiness of the rich, the corruption of power.” — New York Times Book Review
“Sweeping, absorbing epic. . .An expertly written tale of ancient crimes, with every period detail--and every detail, period--just right.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Meyer’s massive Texas saga is perhaps the best Indian captive story ever written. . . [Meyer’s] tale is best compared to Giant. Little Big Man and Lonesome Dove also come to mind...” — Booklist (starred review)
“One of those books that remind you how totally absorbing a novel can be... the work of an uncommonly visionary and skillful writer with a superb sense of pacing... a beautiful, violent and frequently heartbreaking book, but it is not without a sense of fun.” — Washington Independent Review of Books
“A vivid, unflinching look at the peoples who struggled to conquer Texas, and one another. . . an aerial view of Texas, in which hidden elements of a huge, breathtaking landscape are suddenly made clear.” — Austin Chronicle
“One word--stunning. The Son stands fair to hold its own in the canon of Great American Novels. A book that for once really does deserve to be called a masterpiece.” — Kate Atkinson
“Meyer is an impressive and multi-talented story-teller in the old, good sense--the kind that makes me hang on for whatever the next chapter will hold.” — Richard Ford
“A remarkable, beautifully crafted novel. Meyer tackles large movements of American history and culture yet also delivers page-turning delights of story and character.” — Charles Frazier
Philipp Meyer redrafts humanity’s oldest questions and deepest obsessions into something so raw and dazzling and brutal and real, The Son should come with its own soundtrack — Tea Obreht
“A true American epic, full of brutal poetry and breathtaking panoramas. Meyer’s characters repeatedly bear witness to the collision of human greed, savagery, and desire with the mute and indomitable Plains landscape. Meyer is a writer of tremendous talent, compassion and ambition.--The Son is a staggering achievement.” — Karen Russell
“Meyer’s tale is vast, volcanic, prodigious in violence, intermittently hard to fathom, not infrequently hard to stomach, and difficult to ignore.” — Boston Globe
“Ambitious readers who take their prose seriously should grab a copy of The Son, a stunning work of historical fiction by Philipp Meyer. Scores of critics are gushing over the book calling it epic, one of the best of the year, even an American classic.” — CNN Online (Hot Reads for June)
“The story of our founding mythology; of the men and women who tore a country from the wilderness and the price paid in blood by subsequent generations. An epic in the tradition of Faulkner and Melville, this is the work of a writer at the height of his power.” — Kevin Powers
“An epic, heroic, hallucinatory work of art in which wry modern tropes and savage Western lore hunt together on an endless prairie... a horribly tragic, disturbingly comic and fiercely passionate masterpiece of storytelling.” — Chris Cleave
The Son is positioned to seduce readers who swooned for Lonesome Dove and 2011’s briskly selling Comanche history, Empire of the Summer Moon. — Cleveland Plain Dealer
“It may not be the Great American Novel, but it certainly is a damn good one.” — Entertainment Weekly (Grade A Review)
“Philipp Meyer’s epic novel begins in 1849, when Eli McCullough, 13, is kidnapped by Comanches, and ends in 2012 as Eli’s rich and powerful great-granddaughter is dying. USA TODAY says **** out of four.” — USA Today
“In gorgeously gritty prose, this epic novel follows three generations of the McCullough family - as wild as the untamed Texas frontier where they’ve settled - in their ruthless quest for power. (Ten Titles To Pick Up Now)” — O, the Oprah Magazine
“The Son is adeptly written, rife with conflict, and richly built on scads of historical detail. Meyer is unflinching in his portrayal of violence and its role in America’s bedrock.” — Austin American-Statesman
“One of the best books I’ve ever read . . . Incredibly ambitious and rich, and it reminds me of Blood Meridian and As I Lay Dying. Faulkner and McCarthy fans should definitely check it out.” — Dallas Observer
“The Son drives home one hard and fascinating truth about American life: None of us belong here. We just have it on loan until the next civilization comes around.” — Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Mr. Meyer’s version of how a white child grows into the culture of a Comanche warrior is so vivid, violent, heartless and tender at the same time that I often put the book down to recover from the scenes, then picked it up, eager to follow the narrative.” — Pittsburg Post-Gazette
“Meyer has penned another masterpiece of American fiction. Read it and see if you don’t agree.” — Dayton Daily News
“The Son is a true American original. Meyer describes the Comanche as ‘riding to haul hell out of its shuck.’ It’s an apt description of how it feels to read this exciting, far-reaching book.” — Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“. . . a raw and gritty novel not for the faint-hearted.” — Eagle (Bryan-College Station, Texas)
“. . . Involving and moving novel. Meyer’s work deserves its place among the great epics of Texas; even more, his vision of the state will change the way readers understand and judge its history and its folklore.” — Chapter 16
“. . . Meyer’s brilliant second novel . . . The writing is strong - ‘riders were suddening out of the trees’ - and rich with detail. . . Just like Meyer’s riveting 2009 debut American Rust, this is a wonderful novel.” — Financial Times
This is an endlessly absorbing book, a page-turner with serious moral scope, both full of feeling and ruthlessly engineered, as great books are, to get us closer to the truth about ourselves. — Men's Journal
The Son clearly demonstrates how a well-written, thoroughly researched work of fiction illuminates the past. . . ‘No land was ever acquired honestly in the history of the earth,’ Eli maintains. An outstanding novelist has tilled this fertile ground.” — Santa Fe New Mexican
“Critics have compared the writing to Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove or any of Cormac McCarthy’s novels. Anyone who likes a Western saga will find plenty to savor in this latest work from a distinguished spinner of Western yarns.” — Examiner.com
“This is an endlessly absorbing book, a page-turner with serious moral scope, both full of feeling and ruthlessly engineered, as great books are, to get us closer to the truth about ourselves.” — Men's Journal
“An epic of the American Southwest, Meyer’s masterly second novel follows several generations of a Texas ranching and oil dynasty through the 19th and 20th centuries…” — New York Times Book Review, Paperback Row
From the Back Cover
A Globe & Mail 100 Selection
Spring, 1849. Eli McCullough is thirteen years old when a band of Comanche storms his Texas homestead and murders his mother and sister, taking him captive. Brave and clever, Eli quickly adapts to Comanche life, carving out a place as the chief's adopted son 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 fashion a place for himself in a world in which he does not fully belong—a journey of adventure, tragedy, and grit that reverberates in the lives of his progeny.
Intertwined with Eli's story are those of his son, Peter, a man who bears the emotional cost of his father's drive for power, and Eli's great-granddaughter, Jeannie, a woman who must fight hardened rivals to succeed in a man's world. Philipp Meyer deftly explores how Eli's ruthlessness and steely pragmatism transform subsequent generations of McCulloughs. Love, honor, and even children are sacrificed in the name of ambition, as the family becomes one of the richest powers in Texas, a ranching-and-oil dynasty of unsurpassed wealth and privilege. Yet, like all empires, the McCulloughs must eventually face the consequences of their choices.
Harrowing, panoramic, and vividly drawn, The Son is a masterful achievement from a sublime young talent.
- Publisher : Ecco; 1st edition (January 28, 2014)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 592 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0062120409
- ISBN-13 : 978-0062120403
- Lexile measure : 930L
- Item Weight : 1 pounds
- Dimensions : 1.2 x 5.3 x 7.9 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #117,861 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Eli McCullough claims to be "the first male child of this new republic," born to settlers "intent on getting rich if they could stay alive long enough." No easy task, considering the neighbors. "Then came the Comanche. The earth had seen nothing like them since the Mongols; they drove the Apaches into the sea, destroyed the Spanish Army, turned Mexico into a slave market."
Barely into his teens, Eli is kidnapped in 1849 by the Comanches in a brutally bloody raid on his family's home. Eli survives a grueling trek across the plains, and the war party's leader, Toshaway, sees potential in the boy as long as the tribe can beat the white off him. Eli is set to work doing the tasks the Comanche women feel are beneath them until a good swift punch to the groin reminds him he has balls big enough to tell the women to fetch their own water. "The white one becomes a man." Sort of. The tribal leaders decide he doesn't have to fetch anymore, but "being retarded in all things they found important," Eli is deemed fit company mostly for the children, who teach him how to hunt and ride and shoot with a bow. As he gets older and tougher and browner, Eli graduates to breaking wild ponies and aiding the warriors in target practice (Eli serves as the target).
Meyer puts his Melville influence to use as he catalogs in great detail the Comanche way. As Eli grows stronger and becomes a surer hand with a horse and scalping knife (his marksmanship with a bow and arrow is still the subject of much derision), he joins the veteran warriors as they rampage through herds of buffalo, Mexican villages and rival tribes. Eli finds several opportunities to run away and rejoin the whites, but he never takes them. This has become his life.
But the Comanches' time on top is coming to a close as settlers encroach, as food runs out, as smallpox spreads and as the Apaches, Mexicans and whites pursue a payback that's been a long time coming. "The world is against us," Toshaway says. One key difference between Eli and the "us" that is his adopted family is that, as a white man, Eli has the option of survival.
About 160 years later, oil baroness Jeanne Anne McCullough wakes up on the floor of her mansion, paralyzed, wondering how she got there. She knows her own death is near, and she knows that death will be an occasion for celebration among Texas' environmentalists and do-gooders. Regardless, looking back on her life, she finds no cause for repentance.
"She had done right. Made something out of nothing. The human life span had doubled, you did not get to the hospital without oil, the medicines you took could not be made, the food you ate did not reach the store, the tractor did not leave the farmer's barn. She took something useless under the ground and brought it to the surface, into the light, where it meant something. It was creation. Her entire life."
To Jeannie, "people made no sense. ... Men, with whom she had everything in common, did not want her around. Women, with whom she had nothing in common, smiled too much, laughed too loud, and mostly reminded her of small dogs. ... There had never been a place for a person like her." At a very young age, Jeannie determines she's going to follow her heathen great-grandfather Eli straight to hell. Eli, called the Colonel, likes to sit on the family's gallery, drinking mint juleps and regaling listeners with wild tales about frontier days and being raised by the Comanches.
Despite discouragement from the males and the more ladylike females in her family, Jeannie is determined to wrest out her rightful place in the McCullough cattle business: ropin' and ridin' and wranglin' along with the cowboys. Great-Grandpa Eli has assured her "that one day she would do something important."
Jeannie's great-uncle Phineas calls her to his office one day to lay out the future of the family -- and Texas. Raising cattle has become a largely profitless game for rich men who like to play cowboy. The ranch is a fantasy that yields more romance than revenue. The future, the money, the power lie in oil. And decades earlier, Eli had the foresight to buy up all the oil leases he could get his hands on. Jeannie's father, Charles, remains stubbornly dedicated to life on the ranch, and Phineas knows the girl is vital to getting the property out of Charles' incompetent hands.
"She knew then why she had been called: he wanted her to betray her father. To her surprise she did not object to this as much as she might have hoped. Her father, for all his rough-and-tumble image, was a dandy. She had always known this, perhaps because the Colonel was always pointing it out. Earning money was the furthest thing from her father's mind."
It's no easy feat to become a successful woman in a business controlled by oilMEN. Jeannie can't just run her operation from the office, she has to learn how each employee and every piece of equipment functions and contributes to the machinery as a whole. "In order to be respected she had to know their jobs as well as hers."
The traditionalists of Texas find fault with Jeannie's ambition. "It had never stopped being strange that what was praised in men -- the need to be good at everything, to be someone important -- would be considered a character flaw in her."
Jeannie's drive to be important, rich and respected pushes more standard roles of motherhood and family into the back seat. And the next generation of McCulloughs, born of privilege and entitlement, grows up never having to work, never having to think, learning only how to spend and gratify the self.
Providing counterpoint to the larger-than-life sagas of Eli and Jeannie are diaries from the early 1900s, written by Peter McCullough, Eli's estranged son: "the only true record." Peter knows where the bodies are buried in the family history (and literally tends some of the unmarked graves). In a state populated by misfits and miscreants, Peter still can't find a place to belong. For being levelheaded and halfway civilized, Peter is held in contempt by his father, Eli, and the vaqueros who work on the family spread. He's the classic ineffectual intellectual, a do-nothing railing against the crimes of the doers.
Peter feels more comfortable in the company of rural rancher Pedro Garcia, with whom Eli wants to pick a range war. A few livestock thefts give Eli his opening. The Garcias are branded Mexican radicals, and Eli, a couple of Texas Rangers and a small army of yahoos attack the Garcia ranch and wipe out every person they can aim at through the gunsmoke -- for which they are hailed as heroes by the state newspapers. "People continued to arrive at the house, bringing cakes, roasts, and regrets that they had not been able to reach us in time to help -- how brave we were to assault the Mexicans with such a small force. By that they mean seventy-three against ten. Fifteen if you count the women. Nineteen if you count the children."
It's not long before the range war escalates into a largely one-sided race war. Peter offers the Tejano families shelter at the McCullough ranch from the roaming gangs of redneck lynch mobs, for which the Mexicans are eternally grateful -- to "Don Eli." When things settle down, the McCulloughs are on top once again, and the state gratefully offers them a great price on the Garcia property.
"Now that we have clear title to the Garcia land, it is just as my father supposed -- we look like benevolent kings. Where Pedro was tight-fisted, we employ half the men in town. Anyone who wants work now has it: clearing brush, digging irrigation, rounding up twenty years of maverick longhorn bulls. ... How we can appear to have clean hands, despite what happened, I find baffling. And depressing. As if I alone remember the truth."
Trying to atone for his family's sins and assuage his own guilt over complicity, Peter defies Eli by taking in Maria, the last survivor of the Garcia family.
The Colonel orders Peter to get rid of the girl, but for a while, Eli's too preoccupied with oil and mineral rights to ensure his son's compliance. All around Peter, the Colonel and his men are building elaborate mechanical straws to punch through the Earth's crust and suck out the riches below, the process turning the McCullough property into a "pit of stinking black sludge."
Amid the environmental hell, Peter falls in love with Maria, a romance that opens an irreparable rift in the McCullough family.
Meyer's first novel, "American Rust," depicted a country pillaged by corporations and plummeting toward an irreversible decline -- an America that, in a rabid frenzy of consumption, chewed off its own strong right arm and traded it for a heaping handful of get-rich fairy dust. Meyer enlarges on this theme in his ambitious follow-up.
Right from its epigraph, "The Son" concerns itself with the transitory nature of empire. Eli's opening reflections are on Alexander the Great, who sought immortality but was dragged back to bed by his wife to die like everybody else. Again and again, throughout the century and a half chronicled in the novel, the powerful attain status through the brutal subjugation of a previous regime, then topple from their pinnacle. Sometimes the conquering hand comes from outside forces even more powerful; sometimes the fatal weakness comes from flaws within. Whatever the cause of failure, no one stays on top forever.
Cormac McCarthy, to whom Meyer owes an obvious and sizable debt, has written extensively about the violence inherent in the land, particularly along the border with Mexico. As if there was something growing in the ground that requires nurturing through regular waterings of bloodshed. That's an intriguing concept for metaphysical musings, but I'm afraid the truth might be rather more prosaic -- and more bothersome: Human beings, in all their hues, are simply awful people.
But don't go in expecting a tiresome sermon or populist propaganda. Within the first 20 pages or so, "The Son" announces itself as one of those "settle in" books: You might as well find a comfortable perch and settle in because you're going to be busy for the next few weeks, happily engrossed in this world.
Many novelists, after producing something as good as "American Rust" on their first outing, might justifiably coast a little bit on their second book. Do something small and personal, maybe. Instead, Philipp Meyer, a Baltimore native, ran off to Texas and sought to capture the sprawling, brawling, untamed nature of that most unruly of U.S. states.
As a Texan (sadly transplanted but still bearing the image of my home tattooed above my heart), I extend a hand of greeting to Mr. Meyer and invite him to make himself at home: Welcome, Son.
However great his talent the book is a downer in the end.. Only Eli McCullough (1836-1936) has a happy or rewarding life and the ending is a Gotterdammerung for five generations of the McCullough family; but one who sticks with itwill have read a great story - in fact several great stories. There are enough events, experiences, situations and characters between the covers of this book for at least three great movies, two TV Series and a month's worth of Book Club conversations.
It's the story of five generations of the McCullough family - from Eli who was born with nothing on a ranch on the empty Texas plain to his great granddaughter Jeanne Anne who has the "home ranch" of a quarter million acres in Southwest Texas, homes in Houston and elsewhere and who, having the talents of her great grandfather, had amassed a fortune of hundreds of millions of dollars through her investments in oil, S&Ls, insurance companies and the like. I think I is fair to say that the book could be titled "From Boots to Boeings"
There are three main characters - Eli, his son Peter (1870-193?) and Jeanne Anne (1926-`95?) - and each has his or her own story. But these three stories are not told consecutively but together, comtemporaneously. in frequent short bursts - short episodes - first an episode about Jeanne, then one from Peter's life for example, back to Jeanne, then to Eli etc. It can be confusing. They are not chronologically sequential but after one is a few pages into the book everything comes together pretty well. A caveat: Readers need be sure to have the Genealogy that comes in the front of the book placed within easy reach as you read. You will need it
Eli's life is by the most interesting of all the principal characters - by far. His mother and sister are killed in a Comanche in a raid on his home ranch circa 1846-6 (the father was away) and he and his brother Martin are kidnaped, tied to a horse and driven all the way to the tribe's home territory in what is now Oklahoma. Martin doesn't survive the ride the ride, but Eli not only survives the ride he survives the next three years as well, during which he becomes a full fledged member of the Tribe - in every way. Taking scalps, taking Prairie Blossom as his woman, accepting Toshaway as his chief, becoming steeped in tribal ways, Comanche lore and customs and in the friendship with his two best friends - Escutu and Nuuukru. Mr. Meyer's scholarship and powers of story telling and description are on full display in this section of the book. It's good enough for a stand-alone novel - or maybe two or three. (In the middle of the book Mr. Meyer gives us a complete chapter on how to skin and render a complete buffalo from horns to hoofs. Didn't know that, did you? But read this book and you will. Fascinating!) Like all idylls this one must end - and it does in a smallpox epidemic which kills Praririe Blossom and most of the rest of the tribe, including Toshawa; and the reader is sad to see them go. Most of us would rather spend more literary time with Eli and his Comanche friends than we would with the people on the frontier.
After the tribe disintegrated Eli returned to "civilization". He became a Texas Ranger, then a Confederate Irregular during the Civil War and managed to be one of several Irregulars who ambushed a Federal wagon train loaded with gold dust on its way to the Assay Office. Having liberated the source of his fortune he bought several hundred acres on the site of what became his home ranch for 24 cents an acre. This plus the fact that all one had to do to build up a herd in 1865 was to put a fence around some unbranded cattle and he had a big start - the source of the McCullough fortune - and then there was Eli's undiluted absolute force of character and personality. That had as much to do with it as anything
Eli's oldest son Peter B. (b. 1870) was a different man - probably as smart if not smarter than his father but one of contemplation not action, of sensitivity rather than lack of feeling; and if you may be wondering to which man (or woman) in this story "The Son" refers to. My guess is Peter - and Why? The best reference and the best story of it is to be gained from reading the book.
One can argue - as I do - that the really great tragedy of this book is Jeanne Ann McCullough (b. 1926), born to immense wealth and great talent and who most resembles her great-grandfather Eli. But somewhere along the course of her life things went wrong. Her husband (fine man) died early in a hunting accident. One son was killed in the war; another one died of aids; her daughter was useless - an empty vessel living the loose life mid diets and fads and drugs in San Francisco and leaving her with two young illegitimate grandchildren each by a different father. Finally at the very end of the book the family cycle comes full circle; and as a reader I wish Philip Meyer had read Aristotle's Poetics and purged the emotion of the reader as the story ended. But that didn't happen and I'm still regretful. The family deserved better - in every generation.
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The action was quite brutal at times but always readable and never gratuitous. The flaw was that in telling the history from the viewpoint of 3 protagonists, the story suffered from one characters part being so much more interesting than the other two and at times my interest flagged when the story teller changed.
But all in all, a very good read.
A myriad of themes run through this novel and I felt it could have been improved if the story had been kept simpler. For a long time I found it hard to keep track of who was who, and related to whom? Who, exactly, is The Son? And who fathered him? The land? The Indians? Mother Nature? Is "the son" actually a daughter? Does it matter? It's the kind of novel that makes you ask yourself such annoying questions and thus gets in the way of itself.
Don't get me wrong though, it's an excellent mixture of drama, history, romance and men having to do what men have to do. A bit Dances With Wolves, a bit Gone With The Wind, a bit True Grit and only slightly marred by being a bit Too Long. I like Westerns, there aren't enough of them. If you liked his, then treat yourself to Lonesome Dove, thrill yourself with Valdez is Coming and read something similar.
The viewpoint switches on a three chapter cycle: Colonel Eli McCullough, tough and vengeful, even psychopathic, made acquisitive by harsh experience, who survives capture by the Comanche Indians as a teenager to become head of a major cattle and oil dynasty; his granddaughter Jeanne Anne, a "chip off the old block" who carries on his work; his son Peter, sensitive and introspective, so dismissed as weak, his whole life blighted by the guilt of the family's casual massacre of an old Mexican family, rivals for land. Ironically Ulises Garcia, a descendant of both families, may prove a worthier inheritor of the Colonel's wealth than his pampered great-great-grandchildren who have lost their fighting spirit. Running three main threads in parallel may confuse the reader, and for me it detracted from the dramatic tension of some key events, but it helps to remind one continually of the connections between the characters, the causes and effects of their actions.
Although at times it may seem little more than a swashbuckling western or prequel to a Dallas-type soap, this is raised above the average by the depth of Meyer's research. Too often, chunks of this are planted in the middle of the drama, but some passages are fascinating, such as the detailed description of how Indians made ingenious use of every part of a buffalo, leaving only the heart within the rib-cage to show the gods they were not greedy, or the chilling account of exactly how a teenage white boy turned native would set about preserving his first scalp.
The well-knotted ending enhanced my opinion of the story after some lengthy periods of frustration in which I wished Meyer had worked a little harder on his dialogue and character development - inevitably thin at times with so many players, and that he had been more ruthless in leaving out some minor scenes to leave more space for "showing" rather than the "telling" which is often too dominant. These shortcomings, such as the corny Hollywood-style of communication adopted by Eli's Comanche companions around 1850, place this book closer to airport blockbuster than literary fiction. I'm sure it will sell very well, it is impressive but not in the same league as Cormac McCarthy with his mindblowing prose.
This will inspire many to revisit the history of the development of the west, but in the meantime a glossary of e.g. Mexican terms used and of some historical characters mentioned would have been useful.