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9780062120397_custom-628c5dc545cfb6e7f837b07736f7df07b7707efe-s6-c30Reviewed by Jax Kepple

Texas, as seen from the eyes of one of its wealthiest families, will never make you happy. For the McCullough family, life begins and ends at the ranch, where patriarch Eli (who lives to be almost 100 years old, thereby touching many generations) has built first a cattle empire, and then a massive oil conglomerate. He is one of four narrators in this epic story of family, wealth and class spanning the 1800s through present day.

Eli watches his family get massacred and is held captive for years by the Comanche tribe. Along the way, he is adopted by the tribe and becomes accustomed to their way of life. He has to leave the tribe at sixteen, finding it hard to readjust to life. He builds the McCullough dynasty through brutal means, similar to how the Comanche acted, and these means culminate in a graphic attack on a formerly friendly neighboring family, the Garcias. This attack profoundly affects Eli’s son Peter and his relationship with the family forever. Peter is a generally easy-going man, but he cannot shake the attack on the Garcias, especially when a ghost from the past shows up to reignite his passions. Jeanne is Peter’s granddaughter (so Eli’s great-granddaughter) who has inherited the family business by process of elimination. She struggles with the choices she has made in life, while holding her great-grandfather in high regard.

Eli is ruthless, cruel and unlikable as he struggles to shake the teachings and ways of the Comanche in his life. I felt that some of his chapters were basically dry historical fact-telling (one particular about buffaloes), but overall his story was definitely the most compelling. Peter was sort of a push-over, obeying his father in every way and being a good company man, although it takes him awhile to get on board with oil, as he loves being a cattleman. He is the good egg, the most compassionate character who will stop at nothing to right his family’s wrongs. Jeanne was the least interesting to me, as I saw a modern woman whose feelings had nothing to do with how she acted. It seemed as though she just floated through a privileged life and fell into a successful business. I truly hated how she was portrayed – a sniveling mess.

Author Philipp Meyer uses different points of view for each character, making the flow of The Son disjointed. Eli was in the first person (he was dictating his story to a tape recorder), Peter’s story was told through his diary entries, and Jeanne (Meyer chose to alternate her name in the chapter titles from “Jeanne” to “J.A.” for no reason) was in third person. I had to flip back to remember what had happened in the last narrator’s chapter because it didn’t flow in a normal way. I would have expected the story arcs to have some similarity but they didn’t, and it led to a choppy story. The introduction of a fourth narrator also cramped the plot line a bit, but the ending twist was thoughtful and was a good way to wrap up the themes of the story.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Jax is in an accountant at a hedge fund. She resides in NYC with her husband.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Ecco. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.