The Son by Philipp Meyer, author of 2009’s American Rust, is as ambitious as it is stunning. Very rarely does a book blow me away like this one has. It gets tiring hearing people throw around terms like “masterpiece” and “instant classic,” but if ever there were a book that deserved such praise, The Son would be it.
As described by its Amazon page, it is “an epic of the American West and a multigenerational saga of power, blood, land, and oil that follows the rise of one unforgettable Texas family, from the Comanche raids of the 1800s to the to the oil booms of the 20th century.” Of course, it is much more than that. Mostly, it follows the intertwining stories of three generations of the McCullough family: Eli, Peter, and Jeannie.
“Seeing that people like the book is especially gratifying, though actually saying that makes me a little nervous,” Meyer recently told the Washington Post. ”I’ve always thought - at least from the artistic point of view - that praise is just as destructive as criticism. So I try to get it out of my head as quickly as possible.”
If that is the case, he will have a lot of praise to ignore. Here is just a taste of what critics have been saying:
- “With its vast scope, The Son makes a viable claim to be a Great American Novel.” (Washington Post)
- “The stuff of Great American Literature. Like all destined classics, Meyer’s second novel speaks volumes about humanity - our insatiable greed, our inherent frailty, the endless cycle of conquer or be conquered.” (Publishers Weekly)
- “Like Cormac McCarthy’s ‘Blood Meridian,’ it allows the past its otherness and its characters the dignity of blundering through the world as it was. These are not heroic transplants from the present, disguised in buckskin and loincloths. They are unrepentant, greedy, often homicidal lost souls, blindly groping their way through the 19th and 20th centuries, from the ordeals of the frontier to the more recent absurdities of celebrity culture.” (New York Times)
- “For all the debts this novel owes Melville, Faulkner, McMurtry and McCarthy, so has Meyer; ‘The Son’ is a true American original. Meyer describes the Comanche as “riding to haul hell out of its shuck.” It’s an apt description of how it feels to read this exciting, far-reaching book.” (JSOnline)