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. The first male child born in the newly established Republic of Texas, Eli McCullough is thirteen years old when a marauding band of Comanches storms his homestead and brutally murders his mother and sister, taking him captive. Brave and clever, Eli quickly adapts to life among the Comanches, learning their ways and language, answering to a new name, becoming 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 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.
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 Jeannie, Eli’s great-granddaughter, 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, 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.
NOMINATING LIBRARY COMMENTS
We are in awe of the storytelling style of the author as he narrates the brutal and blood soaked tale of a Texas oil and cattle dynasty. Fortunes were made, lives were lost, land was appropriated and moral compasses were loose.
This 200 year spanning multi-generational saga in the American West tells a story about the bloody nature of all humanity as seen through a Texas microscope. The conflicts between the American settlers and the Comanche Tribe and Mexicans are told by three different family members from three different eras. I chose this book because the seemingly weakest character – the patriarch’s son Peter, the moral voice who narrates his conflicted struggle with power – reminds me of the cost, both individual and national of one culture’s rise over another.