To begin, let me get this out of the way: I won a copy of “The Son” through a giveaway on Goodreads. Despite that, this review has not been bought and paid for, nor is it in any way anyone’s opinion but my own.
Well. That gets the nitty-gritty out of the way. So let’s get down to business, shall we?
Welcome to The Son: historical fiction at its finest. A vibrant picture not only of characterization, but of the history and personification of the Lone Star state itself, this work is an engaging saga that carries across generations, and through them, unveils the cultures and people that helped to form the true uniqueness of the American south.
Our guides are four-fold: Colonel Eli McCullough, patriarch of the McCullough clan and the first male child born in the Republic of Texas; his son, Peter, in which morality finds a foothold; and Peter’s granddaughter, Jeanne, whom expands the McCullough empire to new heights. No, that is not a mathematical error, by the way–there is a fourth character, but unveiling them would in turn prod too deeply into the plot for a review. Apologies.
This book is not your average Western. If you go in expecting that, you will be sadly disappointed. There is violence, tragedy, and unsettling portrayals of family–but it is captured in an authentically real voice and narrative; one will find cowboys, but they’re not roaming the prairie with the easy heroism of “The Duke.”
It also delivers what is, in truth, a captivating portrayal of the Comanche Indians, from the height of their dominion to the devastating about-face a flip of luck’s coin can bring. The effect this tribe would have on the generations to come, and viewed through the eyes of Eli McCullough, a white man raised in this world, positively resonates through the soul of the book.
Each character has a unique voice, fraught with its own foibles and virtues; yet the book itself shines through Philipp Meyer‘s own voice, originally rendered to us in the equally powerful novel, American Rust. Here, it captures the untamed wild and brings it under modern inspection; he breathes emotion into history and shows why it is so important we should never let the past die. In some ways, it can come back to haunt you; yet, in others, the peril is so much greater for those that turn aside.
It can be jarring initially. If you go in without any foreknowledge of what you’re getting into, the character shifts and settings might leave you a little off-balance–but once you settle in, you won’t be able to put it down. There is power in the voice, humanity (in all its shades of grey) in the characters, beauty and terror in the setting, and a sweeping breadth of life in the cultures and landscape it covers. And the dialogue is none-too-shabby either–a fact that is paired with enough twists and turns to keep even the most suspicious fellow on their toes.
Taken to the stars? 4/5