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Book review: THE SON by Philipp Meyer

| 27 June 2013 | Reply

Published by Random House Australia
Released: July 2013
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar

The Son by Philipp Meyer book

Philipp Meyer, author of American Rust, delivers an epic tale in The Son, or rather, three tales which tell a much bigger story.

The McCullough family saga starts with Eli, born in 1836, and kidnapped as a young lad by the Comanche. He quickly learns the way of his adopting tribe, and spends several years living as one of them, before circumstances thrust him back into the white community which he has largely lost touch with. Eli becomes a Ranger, a soldier and a thief before settling on a cattle ranch and raising a family as best he can, which isn’t so great, his heart still deeply entrenched with Comanche ways.

Eli – ‘The Colonel’ – has a clutch of children, the younger of which is Peter, a man so far removed from Eli’s own pioneering spirit and beliefs that their relationship starts wary and ends hostile. Peter’s diary entries tell of a time when oil is discovered in Texas, relations with the Mexicans across the border is tenuous, and the Indians are all but defeated.

Peter’s daughter Jeanne Anne McCullough is the fifth richest woman in Texas and as she lies barely conscious on the floor of the family mansion, aged 86, she catalogs the endless battles she has fought in her life: against those who thought a woman incapable of achieving the all she has, against family memories which they would rather forget, a family who care too little, and against her own restlessness.

These stories intertwine expertly as Meyer spins this enormous yarn, and they tell of much more besides 150 years of the McCullough family. This is a story of America, of how she was tamed at the expense of her native people, and how they were murdered, stolen from, and discarded, almost extinct. It is a story of prejudice against almost everyone – Indians, Mexicans, women. Most of all it is a story of human spirit and how we must find the ability to adapt to horrendous circumstances or die. The McCulloughs do not all achieve greatness, but they all follow their hearts, even if that takes them from those they love and into situations they love even more. In this way the family McCullough and The Son tell the story of their country, shirking neither from tales of pride nor shame.

Category: Book Reviews

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