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Rated 3.98
8,000 ratings

The Son

By: Philipp Meyer

Publisher: HarperCollins Trade

Imprint: Ecco

Format: Hardcover | ISBN: 9780062120397

Other Formats:

Trade Paperback

On Sale: | Pages: 576

  • About the Book
  • Reviews
Philipp Meyer, the acclaimed author of American Rust, returns with The Son: an epic of the American West and a multigenerational saga of power, blood, land, and oil that follows the rise of one unforgettable Texas family, from the Comanche raids of the 1800s to the to the oil booms of the 20th century.Harrowing, panoramic, and deeply evocative, The Son is a fully realized masterwork in the greatest tradition of the American canonan unforgettable novel that combines the narrative prowess of Larry McMurtry with the knife-edge sharpness of Cormac McCarthy.
Meyer's first novel “American Rust,” chronicled the slow death of a small Pennsylvania steel town and the evaporating of hopes of its two protagonists. “The Son,” which seems certain to cement Meyer's reputation, takes on a bigger geography, but decline is still the theme. In the process, he's written a Texas epic that can stand alongside classics by Larry McMurtry and Cormac McCarthy.... While Eli remains the most compelling character in "The Son," Meyer skilfully weaves together all his time-traveling threads, as the events of one era pay bloody dividends in the next.
—Christian Science Monitor
Meyer unspools the insights of each generation at the same time, an effect that is extraordinarily compelling.... Because of its unblinking depictions of near-senseless murder and torture, The Son has been compared with Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian. Because it's an epic tale of the West, it's been compared with Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove. And as a family saga (of 561 pages), it made me think of John Steinbeck's East of Eden. These comparisons are a testament to how good The Son is.... With its constant shifting in time and between voices, and its preoccupation with questions of power and predation, The Son calls to mind more recent novels like David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas or Jennifer Egan's A Visit From the Goon Squad. Meyer seems to be playing on the line between genre fiction and literary fiction in fascinating ways, not content to let us think the characters we meet will always behave one way or another.
—St. Petersburg Times
The magic of Meyer's writing is that he can describe the Comanche's gang rapes and murders of Eli's mother and sister and the torture and killing of Eli's brother in such ghastly detail. Yet he leads the reader to understand, even admire the tribe's fierce, free range ethic.... Meyer's writing may not quite capture the lyrical power of McCarthy (who does?) or the captivating characters of McMurtry (who does?) but he comes damn close. But what he brings, like some Texas version of Herman Melville, is a stunning array of details about the nomadic Indians and frontier life and the oil patch. Meyer reportedly read some 350 histories to gird his narrative. And it rings true.... Meyer writes with such considerable scope, and so well, about the awful events that allowed the United States to wrest that land from the Mexicans and the Indians.
—Miami Herald
In some of the best sections of his vivid narrative, Mr. Meyer delineates the process of Eli's assimilation.... The reader learns in riveting detail about Eli's Indian days. They are made that much more approachable by the book's profanity, which sounds anachronistic but certainly adds colloquial flourish.... The greatest things about “The Son” are its scope and ambition, not its strictly literary mettle. It's an enveloping, extremely well-wrought, popular novel with passionate convictions about the people, places and battles that it conjures. That ought to be enough.
—New York Times
Jeanne Anne's concerns over the future of the family (which has gone from resolute to dissolute in five generations) may be legitimate, but they hardly generate the excitement, the sheer joy of storytelling, that marks her great-grandfather's memories of the tribe. And Peter, ineffectual, prone to tepid anger, never provokes us into caring about his life.... And yet, as "The Son" progresses, we find ourselves drawn most powerfully to that frontier, despite (or because of) the fact that it no longer exists. This too is what McMurtry was addressing, the lure of those old stories, and its emergence here suggests how difficult it is to write one's way out of such a legacy, even, or especially, within the boundaries of a more settled life.
—Los Angeles Times
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 corruptions of power. (It might have been called “Gone With the Oil.”) But these crowd-pleasing qualities should not distract from Meyer's Spenglerian treatment of the American empire, Southwestern branch. Only in the greatest of historical novels do we come to feel both the distance of the past and our own likely complicity in the sins of a former age, had we been a part of it. To that rank, we now add “The Son.”
—New York Times
It's never boring; Meyer describes well and wears his prodigious research lightly. He respects but doesn't romanticize the Comanche or the past; both are steeped in blood and violence.... For all the debts this novel owes Melville, Faulkner, McMurtry and McCarthy, so has Meyer; "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 primal and ambitious book, drenched in violence and dense with myth.... Indeed, the story flattens as it leaves Quanah Parker and Pancho Villa (who have cameos) and touches on LBJ, JFK and Halliburton. Meyer can't refrain from some dime-store philosophizing. Still, "The Son" is entertaining, and ends in a stirring, big-sky jolt. "Man today lives in a coffin of flesh," Eli tells the WPA. No doubt his scoffing will be enjoyed this summer at the beach.
—Cleveland Plain Dealer
Through its three main characters...“The Son” spans more than 150 years. This expansiveness is a strength of the book — it's easy to become immersed in this hot, wide-open landscape — but also a weakness. By starting with the violence and romance of the Wild West, Meyer creates for himself the perhaps unfair challenge of making modern-day corporate politics as compelling as a battle on horseback, and he doesn't quite succeed.... [T]he book feels like a set of linked novellas, which might as well have been presented individually. The only thing the weave does is to bolster the weaker links in the chain.... A novel that began in carefully rendered, detailed brushwork fizzles out in broader strokes, as if Meyer felt himself running out of space to bring it all together. With a near-600 page summer release, you'd be forgiven for wanting a little more bang for your buck, a little more Cormac McCarthy than James Michener. Still, imposing a stronger sense of plot may have fenced in the wide-open story Meyer wanted to tell. When Meyer takes the time to immerse us into a character's life, his story is an excellent addition to the collection of our country's legends.
—Kansas City Star
Without compromising the novel's pacing, Meyer, who now lives in Austin and reportedly read more than 250 books in preparation for writing THE SON, tackles with a Melvillean zest a range of subjects that include the manufacture of bows and arrows and the butchering of buffalo. He deploys that local knowledge and research in a way that's organic to the story, not intrusive.... The novel has antecedents (think of Thomas Berger's LITTLE BIG MAN and Larry McMurtry's LONESOME DOVE, to name two), but few equals in contemporary literature of this genre. Whether your tastes in entertainment run to Cormac McCarthy or “Dallas,” it's a fair bet you will find this a sumptuous feast.
—Bookreporter.com
It's as bold, ambitious and brutal as its subject: the rise of Texas as seen through the tortured history of one family.... Meyer's narrative jumps around among their overlapping stories, each told in a distinctive voice.... At times, it's not easy to keep all the characters straight. Nor is it a novel for the squeamish... Yet the story is propelled by vivid descriptions.... At 561 pages, The Son is a demanding read. At times, it seems stuffed with enough material for three separate novels. But by the end, Meyer ties it together and not too neatly. Tougher-than-tough Eli McCullough would respect that.
—USA Today
The overarching theme of “The Son” is loss, from the natural abundance and beauty of the land to the cultures of the American Indians and the descendants of the Spanish conquerors of Mexico, all brutally wiped out by the “sons” of the Lone Star state. It's a too-familiar — and depressing — tale that finds a fresh interpretation from the pen of Philipp Meyer.
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
With its vast scope — stretching from pre-Civil War cowboys to post-9/11 immigrants — “The Son” makes a viable claim to be a Great American Novel of the sort John Dos Passos and Frank Norris once produced.... At 561 pages, “The Son” is a long novel that bears its weight with athletic confidence. The story rotates chapter by chapter through three distinct voices, members of the McCullough family born about 50 years apart. That triptych structure is demanding — for author and reader — but as these blazing testimonies begin to fuel one another, they burn even hotter.... What a range Meyer has: He can disembowel a living soldier with just as much color and precision as when he slights a preppy debutante at a sleepover.
—Washington Post
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