Review: The Son

Just like the fashion world, popular book genres tend to come full circle every twenty years or so.  A Reader's Respite has spent the last few years drumming our fingers and waiting patiently for the Family Saga, a genre largely popular in the 1980s, to make a reappearance.

Our patience has been rewarded.

On May 28, Ecco Books will release author Philipp Meyer's newest novel, The Son.  And we declare it to be wonderful.  A multi-generational saga set in Texas from the mid-19th century until more modern times, The Son is the story of America.  Or rather, America as represented by the McCullough family.  The Comanche Wars, the Civil War, the boom and bust of cattle, the discovery of oil, two World Wars....this family has seen it all.

"I don't have to tell you what this land used to look like," he said.  "And you don't have to tell me that I am the one who ruined it.  Which I did, my own hands, and ruined forever."

It is the telling of the story that makes this novel lush and indulgent as Meyer presents their family saga in a non-linear format.  Each chapter is devoted to a different family member, each in a different era, each with their own unique experience of what it means to be a McCullough.

From Eli, captured by the Comanche at a young age, we come to understand what the land meant to the original settlers ("...he is not of our time; he is like some fossil come out of a stream bank or a trench in the ocean, from a time in history when you took what you wanted and did not see any reason to justify.").

From Peter, a McCullough with a social conscious far ahead of his time, we watch the growth of the McCullough fortune and the dubious means to obtain that fortune ("We are the darlings of the capital for killing nineteen of our neighbors and getting two family members shot in the process.").

From Jeannie, the girl who had to be a man, we see the decline of the family even as their wealth grows exponentially ("if she were being honest, honest in a way she was only allowing herself to be right now, her children had taken far more than they could ever give.").

"People continued to arrive at the house, bringing cakes, roasts, and regrets that they had not been able to reach us in time to help - how brave we were to assault the Mexicans with such a small force.  By that they mean seventy-three against ten.  Fifteen if you could the women.  Nineteen if you count the children."

To read The Son means to lose oneself completely to the story of America.  It is heartbreaking and beautiful in it's struggle, not one whit romanticized.  It is, in a word, gorgeous.  If you're attending Book Expo this year, be on the lookout for it!

The Son

Title:  The Son
Author:  Philipp Meyer
Publisher:  Ecco Books
Pages:  576
Source:  Advance Copy courtesy of Ecco Books

Rating:  5 STARS.  Absolutely, 5 stars.


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  2. I just adore huge, sweeping novels, especially if they focus on history as well. I didn't realize the family's last name was McCullough, which is my maiden name. I'm probably going to be slightly creeped out for the first 100 pages or so, but it's definitely coming home soon.

  3. I've literally been waiting for Philipp Meyer to publish another novel since I finished the last page of his excellent American Rust (over four years ago). There's something just brilliant to his writing that I'm sure will translate well into this kind of big-picture story (or anything, really). This one's been on the list since before I even knew it existed, but it certainly doesn't hurt to hear that it's that good!

  4. Oh man. Do I love a good family saga, and I love novels that give you a history lesson through their eyes. One of my favorite books ever is called "Outlaw" by Warren Kiefer, and while it isn't family saga, it is America as it was back in the late 1800's through the 1960's in the west. Amazing amazing book. So. I need to read this one I guess. I'm thinking Kindle? For my summer trips?

  5. I read it on Kindle and loved the format...I'm not sure how well it would translate to audio, if you know what I mean. I'm a HUGE fan of McMurtry's Lonesome Dove (man, did that book ever deserve the Pulitzer!). Now I'll have to track down a copy of Outlaw, though.

  6. I loved American Rust. In fact, now that I think about it, I can't recall ever seeing a negative review of Meyer's work. He's fabulous. One of those writers you tend to tuck in the back of your mind and there's never any question that you will read whatever he writes. He didn't disappoint me one whit with this novel.

  7. You are kidding me...oh, this is going to be a surreal reading experience for you. The name, McCullough, is EVERYTHING to this is central! Can't wait to hear your reaction!

  8. I do love a good family saga but I'm not so sure about some of those time periods. Plus that is a major doorstop of a book. I'll have to think about it.

  9. You're right: it's a chunkster. Although I didn't notice this on the Kindle until after it was all done and I looked up the page count for the review!

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