Friday, June 07, 2013

“The Son” by Philipp Meyer – Oil, Money, and the Wild West

The Son by Philipp Meyer - book cover
The Son by Philipp Meyer may very well be one of the most outstanding and epic Westerns written in recent years, following the story of an entire Texas family for over a hundred and fifty years, telling the stories from the points of view of three different narrators.

The first one is Eli McCullough, who in 1859, at the age of 13, was captured by Comanche natives and with time assimilated himself in their culture, learning to live as they do. However, as most of the natives fell ill to disease, Eli decides to return where he belongs (Texas), diving into the industries of cattle and oil.

The second narrator is Eli’s son, Peter, who has been labeled as the family’s ultimate disappointment for his inability to live up to their image of success. Finally, the third narrator is Eli’s great granddaughter, Jeanne Anne, who is having heaps of trouble running the modern McCullough Texan empire.

I think that one of the most important things people will notice about the book is the amount of attention given to details and making them historically-accurate. It shows that Philipp Meyer is a sucker for accuracy and has really done his research before riding this epic tale. Though it may seem like the book should be a bit of a drag to read at certain moments, I was very pleasantly surprised by how well the author kept everything flowing.

The pace was relatively fast and very consistent, with there seldom being dull passages you are forced to bore your way through. The characters, especially the narrators, each have their own style, knowing how to grab your attention in a steel grasp. Each one has a distinct voice and is fully fleshed out, with a background and an arc, making it quite easy to get attached to some of them.

In my opinion, one of the most prominent features of the book that draws you in is it’s realistic and gritty portrayal of the world. Some may flinch at the vividly-described scenes of violence, others may start feeling queasy at the description of all the filth people back in the day had to deal with. Nevertheless, it is all in the name of making the story more plausible and offering you, the reader, an undistorted image of life back in the day.

All in all, The Son is an uncompromising epic Western and one of the few books that can actually be described as a masterpiece, at least in my opinion, and that of many professional critics.

Philipp Meyer (1974)

Philipp Meyer

Personal site

Philipp Meyer is an American writer of fiction stories, including some rather celebrated ones such as American Rust and The Son. He has been rather proficient over the course of his career, earning him a total of six awards/nominations so far, including the 2010 Guggenheim Fellowship and a nomination as one of the finalists for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

More of the Philipp Meyer's book reviews:
American Rust

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