Sunday, August 18, 2013

Big Texas, Big Novel

Relatively fresh off the heels of reading some Larry McMurtry novels, in particular Lonesome Dove, I was ready to take on another epic Texas novel, which is embodied in Philipp Meyer's new novel, The Son.  The story shifts perspectives and time periods, but essentially follows the life and dynasty of the McCullough family.  In 1849, Eli McCullough is a young boy and witnesses the murder of his sister and mother by the Comanche tribe.  He and his brother are tortured and subject to various forms of brutality, and his brother soon dies.  Left to fend for himself among the Comanches, Eli soon adapts and becomes accepted by the tribe, and is even taken under the wing as a son of the chief known as Toshaway and is given his Comanche name, Tiehteti.  Eventually, the tried is faced with starvation and disease and dies off.  Eli is left alone and must acclimatize back among whites.  Torn between these two worlds, Eli forges a new path for himself.  Fast forward to the perspective of Jeanne Anne McCullough in present day, Eli's great-granddaughter who is an aging oil baroness coming to grips with a deeper understanding of her former marriages and the lives of her children.  Not for the faint of heart, Meyer's sweeping novel has no shortage of murders, scalpings, and ruthlessness.  But it also has very lush and generous language, meticulously researched details of the eras, and distinctive characters and voices.  I didn't know where the novel was taking me at first, and it took me some time to get into the story, but ultimately I enjoyed the novel and its exploration of family and ambition.

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