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The Son

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  14,994 ratings  ·  2,218 reviews
From the author of the highly acclaimed American Rust comes his eagerly awaited second novel, an extraordinary multi-generational Texan epicPart epic of Texas, part classic coming-of-age story, part unflinching portrait of the bloody price of power, The Son is an utterly transporting novel that maps the legacy of violence in the American West through the lives of the McCul ...more
ebook, 384 pages
Published July 18th 2013 by Simon & Schuster UK (first published September 1st 2012)
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Shayne The same feeling, if not the same sense of history, exists in a new genre called "hillbilly noir." I recommend 'Donnybrook' by Frank Bill or 'The…moreThe same feeling, if not the same sense of history, exists in a new genre called "hillbilly noir." I recommend 'Donnybrook' by Frank Bill or 'The Devil All the Time' by Donald Ray Pollock. For straight-up Deadwood-ian, murderous frontier fun, I highly suggest 'The Sisters Brothers' by Patrick deWitt.(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Will Byrnes
On the ranch they had found points from both the Clovis and the Folsom. For the eight thousand years between Folsom and the Spanish, no one knew what happened; there had been people here the whole time, but no one knew what they were called. Though right before the Spanish came there were the Mogollan and when the Spanish came there were the Suma, Jumano, Manso, La Junta, Concho and Chisos and Toboso, Ocana and Cacaxtle, the Coahuiltecans, Comecrudo…but whe
I'm really dumbfounded what happened here. A cursory glance at this and I'd expect this to rank high on an all time list: it's a huge sweeping multigenerational epic, covering huge swaths of American history; it's a postmodern tale of the American West replete with blood lust, scalp-hungry marauding Indians, vigilante ranchers, and oil barons. It's socially and politically subversive, in that it both challenges how frontiersmen confronted race and privilege as well as exposing America's less tha ...more
There’s no way I’m going to call this the great American novel. I would have to define what that meant, and I’d have to support it, and then I’d have to argue with everyone trying to convince me of Moby Dick’s essential worth. No, we’ll leave that useless conversation to the all the kids just heading back to school. They’ve had the whole summer off, eating ice cream, skating on skateboards, shouting too loud after 10 p.m. when I’m trying to sleep – let them solve the literary, philosophical, and ...more
A great read for me—I could hardly put it down. Everything is big in Texas, and in this saga a family line gets big in alignment with a big history. Luckily it doesn’t do a Michener of trying to cover a vast epoch using a huge cast.

Meyer sticks stays mostly with three fascinating and complex characters of three different generations of the McCulloch family, spanning about a century and a half. The frontispiece contains the lineage for the three: patriarch Eli, his son Peter, and great-granddaugh
An epic tale of family set in a state big enough to bear the weight of legend, The Son follows three generations of the powerful McCullough family of Texas: "Colonel" Eli McCullough, the rough and tumble patriarch of the family, whose past includes being a Comanche captive and assimilated tribal member, Texas Ranger, Civil War Confederate, and Texas land baron; his son, Peter, a gentle soul tied to the land, but whose conscience weighs on him after his family's participation in the slaughter of ...more
Justin Sorbara-Hosker
It’s a great thing, reading something and knowing your list of favourite books is probably changing. I wasnt halfway through before I knew this would be a favourite, as long as he didnt screw up the end (he doesn't). By the end, I thought that the Great American novel is alive and well - and this novel is an instant classic.

I have to wear two hats, booklover and bookseller, so why don’t I divide this review that way:


First off, this book is so up my alley it’s not even funny. Echoes o
Edit :: 02/20/14

After some consideration I have decided to link you to Will's review instead of writing my own. As is often the case, his review hits it out of the park.

This book. EPIC. I disappeared for a few days while reading it! I was late picking up a child. I passed on a night out with a friend. I kept my eyes down whilst walking my dog.

Real life?
So. Intrusive.

That's all I've got for now.

Starts impressively but overall, feels too deliberate, too polished, too forcibly epic. Weird proofreading errors in several places. The narrative frame collapses about a third of the way through, just, utterly. The most compelling sections are those from Peter McCullough's diaries. He is, by far, the moral compass of this novel and the most well-drawn character. At times, the book reads like a history textbook. Absolutely grating. Too much of the writer inserting himself in the prose at times. ...more
This is a big summer blockbuster of a novel—a huge book that can keep one occupied for days. The world looks a little different after a session with it—we feel wonder and regret in equal shares: wonder at human diversity and commonality evident at the same time; regret at our inability to comprehend this and share our bounty until it is too late.

Three generations of Texans represented by Eli, Peter, and Jessica struggle through Comanche raids and the discovery of oil from the mid-nineteenth thro
switterbug (Betsey)
Epic, savage, surly, and brimming with ideas, Philipp Meyer's sweeping historical tale of Texas demands shelf space with Cormac McCarthy and Larry McMurty. Like his predecessors, Meyer illustrates the ruthless, violent forms of blood-spilling murder it takes to build the future of a land. Death begets life.

People are conditioned to believe in their rights of land possession, and history point fingers at those who stole land from those that used to occupy it. Wars are fought over territory, and a
This is one of those books that didn't bear the weight of my expectations. Philipp Meyer's The Son certainly has been getting a lot of buzz -- recently named #2 book in Amazon's half-year review/best books of the year (so far) -- but it just seemed to fall short for me in many areas.

It is a multi-generational saga, "epic" for sure but never quite feeling "sweeping" or grand. I thought it started off gangbusters with great potential in the exploration of three eras in Texas history (settlement/I
Well, I finished. I read it through to the end. I have to apologize to my friend Diane for giving her the bad advice to snap up the ARC of this that we saw at a book event (because I had already snapped up my ARC at a previous event). This novel has had so much buzz! I listened to and read so many, many positive reviews and I can say that for the most part, I can understand all the buzz. This novel is epic. The subject matter is very interesting (the settlement of Texas) and there were two chara ...more
I have no particular affinity for Texas. I don't know and don't care to know the difference between a llano and a barranca or a shotgun and a rifle. But I just spent two weeks with ranchers, Rangers, braves, drillers, riggers, vaqueros and several generations of a fabulously wealthy and powerful family and had a perfectly wonderful time.

This isn't the picturesque Old West of saloon brawls, gunfights and fallen women. Nor are there heroes and villains. In this Texas, most everyone kills when nec
"Remember that," he sad, "None of it's worth a shit until you put your name on it."

There are certain rare novels that brilliantly capture the art, heart, and action of both American fiction and history. 'The Son' is one of those historical novels that can absolutely propel the reader. Its narrative strength, however, is equaled by its artistry and its multi-generational, multi-narrative, epic arc. 'The Son' captures the tension between land and people; the contest between people and people; the
Angela M

In the broader sense, this novel is described as epic in scope and in many ways it is. It is the story of America, spanning over a century from the 1800’s to the late 1900's and it is the story of how Texas came to be. But it is also the story of a family staking their claim in Texas and creating a dynasty involved in cattle ranching and later in oil. The novel, though, spoke to me on a different level. It is the story of the three people whose individual narratives comprise the novel.

Unlike man
I started off enjoying the book and was not surprised to learn that Philipp Meyer is influenced by James Michener. I had great hopes that the book would develop into that type of sweeping saga. However by halfway through I was forcing myself to finish it. This multi-generational saga is recounted by three members of the family, but the author does not succeed in really giving them individual voices. The style of all three is very similar and a lot of the writing is done in a trance like style. P ...more
Susan Johnson
This is an epic story of four generations settling Texas. It doesn't involve the Alamo or even refer to it so that's a welcome relief. It's told in three segments. One is the great grandfather, his son, and his great granddaughter. The story moves between the three people.

The most interesting to me is the great grandfather who was a very early settler and as a very young boy is kidnapped by the Comanches. His father is away when the Indians attack but his mother, sister and brother are killed.
Jason Coleman
For a guy from Baltimore, Meyer gets Texas pretty well. The historical arc feels about right, and I'm mostly sold on his vision of animal determination, brutality, and chronic injustice—as well as the lingering bad feelings, which I recognize from growing up there. My own family dabbled in ranching and was heavily involved in the oil biz. Reading The Son I kept coming upon county names (Refugio, Kleberg, Nueces) where we once owned land, and still own some (mostly worthless) mineral rights. The ...more
There is nothing small about the state of Texas nor is there anything small about this epic masterpiece of a novel, which will surely catapult Philipp Meyer into the ranks of the finest American novelists.

What he has accomplished is sheer magic: he has turned the American dream on its ear and revealed it for what it really is: “soil to sand, fertile to barren, fruit to thorns.” The most astounding thing is, you don’t know how good it really is until you close the last page and step back and abso
The Son is a multigenerational saga spanning three generations. This unforgettable Texas family’s story plays out from the three perspectives, each with their own hardships from Comanche and border raids to the oil boom. This is a story of power, blood, and the land; Philipp Meyer explores the American dream and the dark roots of which it came.

I’ve been meaning to pick up American Rust for a while now but instead The Son is the first look at the remarkable writing of Philipp Meyer. The Son follo
Travis Fortney
My review from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography, which you can find here:


Philipp Meyer's 2009 novel American Rust was one of the few literary debuts to break through that year, generating positive reviews in major publications, earning Meyer a spot on The New Yorker's 20 under 40 list, and creating a lot of hype around this recently released follow-up, The Son. Like all breakthrough novels, the reasons for American Rust's popularity were part luck, part ti
Ron Charles
In 2009, as the Great Recession was still dragging on, a young man from Baltimore published his first novel, a devastating story about the human costs of industrial ruin. The Post named Philipp Meyer’s “American Rust” one of the top five novels of the year. The New Yorker included Meyer on its list of the 20 best writers under 40. And he won a Guggenheim fellowship.

What a pleasure it is now to see Meyer confirm all that initial enthusiasm with a second book that’s even more ambitious, even more
I didn't love this book and it tends to be the kind of thing I do love: sweeping family saga, historical fiction. After a couple hundred pages I simply stopped reading, but then picked it up again. The historical aspects were interesting to me and I feel I came away with more knowledge about this period, more knowledge of the violent history of Texas, but I was never completely drawn in to the characters or the story. Oh, they do an awful lot of shrugging. I think Peter McCullough shrugs three t ...more
I do love stories with early Americana themes. I don’t even mind unlikeable and deeply flawed main characters as long as they have some redeeming complexity. Still, it took a while to finish and review this novel…partly because of interruptions but mostly because I never managed to fully engage with this family enough to stay absorbed in the story. I found them unlikeable with unremitting amoral judgment. Even in the end, as each reached their old age, they still lacked credible feelings of remo ...more
Jan 19, 2014 Jason rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jason by: elaina vitale
I'm inclined to agree with Chris Cleave's review of this book, "if you took One Hundred Years of Solitude as your mare and Blood Meridian as your stud, then spooked the resulting herd of horses and had the cast of The Wire dress as Comanches and ride them hard through the gates of hell, you'd have some kind of idea."

I didn't know what to expect from this book's soft title. In a way, I hate the coolness of a non-apparent disclosure like "The Son." It could be anything. It struck me hard though wh
This book made me think of the Grateful Dead song, Brother Esau:

My brother Esau killed the hunter, back in 1969,
Before the killing was done his inheritance was mine.
When at first my brother walked away,
Before a weary band,
Esau gave his sleeplessness for a piece of moral land.
Our father favored Esau, he was eager to obey,
All the wild commandments, the old man shot his way.
But all this ended when, my brother failed at war,
He staggered home and found me in the door.
Sometimes at night I dream, he
Todd Snowden
This is why I should never recommend a book until I have completely finished it. The first half of the book is extraordinary, with colorful language, well-drawn and complex characters, and a rough frontier wisdom. The plot moves along well (initially), and I had no problem moving from one of the 3 generational story lines to another. At some point, however, the wheels fall off the wagon, or maybe just enough wheels so that the story rolls circuitously without a clear direction or intent. I kept ...more
Eric Kibler

Books like this are why I read.

A big, bold, multi-generational tale of Texas, as exciting and hair-raising as it is literary and serious.

Comparisons abound. Larry McMurtry, Herman Melville,John Steinbeck, Cormac McCarthy. Yeah. It's that good.

This one goes into my personal Hall of Fame.
Emma Flanagan
This was the monthly read for Goodreads Ireland in September and I can honestly say that if it hadn't been I probably never would have picked it up but I'm so glad I did.

The synopsis makes it sound a bit like some western from the 50s and doesn't do it justice. It charts the story of 4 generations over approximately 150 years, charting the development of Texas from the frontier period to the 21st century, and in many respects the development of America in a microcosm.

There are three narrators
MSJ (Sarah)
“There is nothing you could take that did not belong to some other person”

“The blood that ran through history would fill every river and ocean.”

The Son is a multi-generational saga of the settlement of Texas. It is both ruthless and unforgiving. Scalping is a particular brutal act. Philipp Meyer created such lush details and characters that it was difficult to not become completely absorbed. I haven’t been so emotionally invested in the Wild West since reading Lonesome Dove, though that book was
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Read 100 pages... can't decide if I should continue 7 29 Mar 23, 2015 10:47AM  
Goodreads Ireland: September Monthly Read 2014: The Son 132 81 Sep 25, 2014 11:06PM  
Title? 21 165 Aug 20, 2014 04:31PM  
Jeannie in The Son 3 115 Aug 24, 2013 07:47AM  
Bokt goodreads gr...: De zoon 1 30 Jul 30, 2013 12:46PM  
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Philipp Meyer's novel, American Rust, was an Economist Book of the Year, a Washington Post Top Ten Book of 2009, a New York Times Notable Book, A Kansas City Star Top 100 Book of 2009, and an Amazon Top 100 Book of 2009.

Philipp Meyer grew up in Baltimore, dropped out of high school, and got his GED when he was sixteen. After spending several years working as a bike mechanic and volunteering at a t
More about Philipp Meyer...
American Rust New Stories from the South: The Year's Best, 2007 The United States of McSweeney's: Ten Years of Lucky Mistakes and Accidental Classics The Ecco Summer 2013 Fiction Sampler: Excerpts from Ecco and Amistad's Upcoming Books

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“The difference between a brave man and a coward is very simple. It is a problem of love. A coward loves only himself... [...] ...a coward cares only for his own body," Toshaway said, "and he loves it above all other things. The brave man loves other men first and himself last. Nahkusuaberu?"

I nodded.

"This" - he tapped me - "must mean nothing to you." The he tapped me again, on my face, my chest, my belly, my hands and feet. "All of this means nothing.”
“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.” 6 likes
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