"The Son", by Philipp Meyer

The Son - Philipp Meyer

This is partly an historical novel about the rise of an oil and ranching dynasty. Le plot spans some 150 years and it concentrates on one proudly purebred south Texan family the McCullough. It showcases in a very dramatic way how each generation faces unique challenges. This 2014 Pulitzer Prize for fiction finalist is 576 pages long, a follow up to “American Rust”, is one that bears its weight with confidence. 

The story alternates chapter by chapter through three narrators: Eli, his son Peter and Peter’s great-niece Jeannie. It was a challenge at first to get use to this structure but once into it what follows was a spectacular narrative right up to the drama’s eerie and heart-stopping finish.

The story open in 1849 and is primarily of Eli. We learn how he was abducted at the age of 13 and raised by the Comanche. His chapters are the best of the book: rich in detail and gore. The supporting roles go to Peter, a weak-willed character who comes to us in a series of embittered diary written before WW1. Equally compelling is the disordered memories of Jeannie who at 86, now one of the wealthiest women recalls the development of Texas and the frustrations she endured as an executive. The author handles the snobberies and cruelties with deft and excellence although it may be a bit tedious to read for some. We do have appealing moments of astuteness and cleverness throughout even though the story tends to struggle under the weight of repetition and bluntness but having said this I was nevertheless captured by the scope of this ambitious book deeply rooted in cultural history…. 

If you don’t mind depictions of violence recounted with emotion, scenes of rage, dismemberment, massacre and torture that are exceptionally harrowing you will love this book. “The Son” is a vivid evocation of time and place, enjoy.