"The Son" is a riveting novel which begins with the first male child born in Texas who is captured by Comanches and weaves its way through references to the Lyndon Johnson election and the John F. Kennedy Assassination in Dallas all the way to the present. Phillipp Meyer, who lives in Austin, does a masterful job of making history fascinating to even those who might not realize they are interested in the subject.
The story begins with Eli McCullough, the first son born in the Republic of Texas, who is kidnapped by a marauding band of Comanches who brutally murder his mother and sister in the spring of 1849. Eli quickly becomes a memorable character as he adapts to the ways of the Comanches, learns their language and wages war against their enemies, including white people which complicates his sense of loyalty and creates something of an identity crisis. Eli's sense of identity is further complicated when he finds himself completely alone after disease and starvation wipe out the tribe.
Neither white nor Comanche, Eli must make a place for himself in a world in which he is alone.
Intertwined with Eli McCullough's story are those of his son , Peter, a man who is severely affected by his father's climb to power, and Jeannie, Eli's great-granddaughter. She fights powerful rivals to succeed in a man's world before it was accepted for women to even hold a job.
Love, honor and even children are sacrificed for the sake of ambition as the family becomes one of the richest forces in Texas and a ranching and oil dynasty. One of the family members becomes head of the Texas Railroad Commission which at that point had the power the Arab oil sheiks would later claim in OPEC. Meyer even refers to the fact the head of the Railroad Commission was more powerful than the governor of Texas because he decided who could sell oil.
This book is far deeper and more intellectual than the television series "Dallas", but it does include a fascinating array of ambitious characters who could probably outdo J.R. Ewing when it comes to scheming and bloodthirsty violence.
Meyer also refers to the days when the McCulloughs of South Texas had to travel to Wichita Falls in the northern part of the state to obtain drilling equipment for their operations. At that point Wichita Falls was the mecca of the oil boom in the Lone Star State. Meyer is a graduate of Cornell University and has an MFA from the University of Texas in Austin.
Meyer refers to Edward Gibbon's masterpiece "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" both at the beginning and near the end of his novel. The last chief to die has a copy of the book in his shield. At the beginning of "The Son", he quotes from Gibbon's book in pertinent part, "In the second century of the Christian era, the Empire of Rome comprehended the fairest part of the earth, and the most civilised portion of mankind....its genius was humbled in the dust; and armies of unknown Barbarians, issuing from the frozen regions of the North, had established their victorious reign over the fairest provinces of Europe and Africa.......the vicissitudes of fortune, which spares neither man nor the proudest of his works....buries empires and cities in a common grave."
Anyone who reads "The Son" will realize how these references to Gibbon's book tie into our modern civilization.
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