The Son is a sweeping multi-generational saga tracing the McColloughs through history as they create a Texan ranch and oil dynasty, accumulating massive wealth and power. Spanning the history of Texas from 1836 until 2012, the story is told by rotating through three different characters, each with a unique voice and a striking story.
The story of Eli McCoullough (The Colonel), the patriarch of the McCoullough dynasty, is told in the first person. As a thirteen year old boy, Eli is kidnapped by the Comanches after watching them slaughter his family. Eventually he becomes a member of the tribe and embraces their lifestyle, only leaving them after a smallpox epidemic decimates the tribe. From there he will move through life – a Confederate soldier, a Texas Ranger, the husband of a judge’s daughter, a rancher, and an oil baron. He is also merciless – a thief, a philanderer, and a murderer. The Colonel is a rough character, firm in his beliefs and willing to do whatever he deems necessary. Ruthless, he was still my favorite voice, brutal and honest and interesting.
“It had become clear to me that the lives of the rich and famous were not so differ from the lies of the Comanches: you did what you pleased and answered to no one.”
The story of Peter McCoullough, the Colonel’s son, is told through his diaries. Peter has a conscience and a sense of morality that his father lacks, and feels burdened by the choices his father has made in pursuit of power. Unfortunately, Peter is too weak to really do anything about it. Caught in the crossfire in a volatile time between Texans and Mexicans, Peter wants to do the right thing but seems incapable. Stuck with an overbearing and disappointed father, a disconnected and unsupportive society wife and children who do not care, Peter tries to make peace with his situation. Honestly, Peter was my least favorite voice – too whiny and depressed and annoying with too little strength and action.
That leaves the final story – that of Jeannie McCollough, Peter’s granddaughter, as told in the third person as she lies on the floor, dying at an old age, and reflecting on the pivotal moments of her life and her struggles. Jeannie has spent much of her life struggling to be independent and succeed in the man’s world of cattle and oil while trying to also be loved – a woman, a wife, and a mother.
”Of course you wanted your children to have it better than you had. But at what point was it not better at all? People needed something to worry about or they would destroy themselves, and she thought of her grandchildren and all the grandchildren yet to come.”
As a warning, this book is not for the faint of heart or the squeamish. If you are bothered by graphic violence, sex, foul language, murder and mayhem – you should probably read something else. My favorite pieces of the book were the stories from Eli about the time spent with the Comanches. But I found the entire book to be fascinating, in the development of the characters and their stories, in the history, and in the intertwining of the lives and fates of the Native Americans, the McCoulloughs, and the Mexicans.
“No land was ever acquired honestly in the history of the earth.”
Title: The Son
Author: Phillip Meyer
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction
Publication: Ecco, May 2013
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