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Pulitzer Prize April 14, 2014
   
The Son
by Philipp Meyer

Overview -

A Globe & Mail 100 Selection

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.  Read more...


 
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More About The Son by Philipp Meyer
 
 
 
Overview

A Globe & Mail 100 Selection

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.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780062120397
  • ISBN-10: 0062120395
  • Publisher: Ecco Press
  • Publish Date: May 2013
  • Page Count: 576


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Westerns - General
Books > Fiction > Historical - General

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2013-03-18
  • Reviewer: Staff

In chronicling the settlement and scourge of the American West, from the Comanche raids of the mid-19th century into the present era, Meyer never falters. The sweeping history of the McCullough dynasty unfolds across generations and through alternating remembrances of three masterfully drawn characters: Eli, the first white male born in a newly founded Texas, captured and raised by Comanche Indians; Eli’s self-sacrificing son, Peter, who shuns everything his power-hungry father represents; and Jeannie, Eli’s fiercely independent great-great-granddaughter, who inherits the family fortune. Chapters detailing Peter’s affair with a Mexican neighbor and his moral struggle with his ancestors’ bloody legacy are keenly balanced alongside those involving Jeannie’s firm yet impassive rule over the modern McCullough estate. But it’s the engrossing, sometimes grotesque descriptions of Eli’s early tribal years—scalpings, mating rituals, and a fascinating few pages about the use of buffalo body parts that recalls Moby Dick—that are the stuff of Great American Literature. Like all destined classics, Meyer’s second novel (after American Rust) speaks volumes about humanity—our insatiable greed, our inherent frailty, the endless cycle of conquer or be conquered. So, too, his characters’ successes and failures serve as a constant reminder: “There is nothing we will not have mastered, except, of course, ourselves.” Agent: Eric Simonoff, WME Entertainment. (June)

 
BookPage Reviews

Philipp Meyer's brilliant and raw epic of the American West

A novel about terse men with guns will inevitably summon comparisons to Hemingway. One set in the South will likewise invoke Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy. The Son by Philipp Meyer has its Hemingway-esque motifs; scenes of scalpings and general rapine do recall McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. Meanwhile, Meyer’s decision to write using different voices riffs on Faulkner’s stylistic experiments.

At times Meyer does seem to be aping these predecessors, but his latest book is no mere homage. This talented young writer—one of the New Yorker’s “20 under 40”—has his own voice, and it owes as much perhaps to Virginia Woolf as to the male American canon.

The Son concerns several generations of Texans: Eli McCullough, his son Peter and Peter’s granddaughter Jeanne Anne. Eli’s tale, told in straight narrative, is set before and during the Civil War. Peter’s, told in diary form, centers on the Great War. J.A.’s, told in interior monologue, spans the latter 20th century.

The most compelling of these characters is Eli, who watches Comanches murder his family and then is taken captive by them. Years pass, and he becomes accustomed to their independent ways, so that even after his so-called liberation, Eli pines for his adoptive people.

Peter’s main struggle is with the Mexicans who once owned the Lone Star State. He witnesses Mexicans being massacred, and when one survivor calls him to account, he must choose between his love for her and his duty to a family who scorns the “wetbacks.”

For J.A., the problem is how to carry on the family name in a completely masculinized culture (women, Eli had said, “had no common sense”). She also struggles with her Texan pride, given that her nation, rather than being grateful for the state’s once indispensable oil production (“life as they knew it did not exist without Texas”), treats her kind with chilly Yankee superiority. On top of that, J.A. is a McCullough, and her ancestors’ enemies remember.

Meyer writes with grace, if not economy, and always with great sympathy, only occasionally careening into the saccharine. His knowledge of Comanche folkways is admirable, and, unlike Hemingway, he can write convincing women.

The novel’s epigraph is from Gibbon, and so its overarching theme is ephemerality—the decline of families shadowed by the decline of empires—a theme evident as well in the title of Meyer’s previous work, American Rust. The Son is a shining second step in a promising career.

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Read a Q&A with Philipp Meyer for The Son.

 
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