Title: The Son
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: Hardcover; 576 pages
Publisher: Ecco; First Edition edition (May 28, 2013)
Notes: Received a copy from the publisher.
In 1846 Eli McCullough's family took up residence in the new frontier of Texas. Described as a land with trees that had never heard the sound of an ax with rich soil, grass up to a man's chest, and all variety of animal living off the fat of the land; it was a settler's paradise. Three years after the family reached the seemingly promised land, they were attacked by Comanche Indians. Eli McCullough was the soul survivor, his father being away at the time, was spared as well. Eli and his brother, Martin, were considered a valuable commodity and the Comanche's took them for their usefulness. Martin, however, didn't make it far. Having seen his sister and mother raped, tortured, and disfigured before they were killed, he'd lost the will to live. He was cut down before ever making it to their final destination and that left Eli alone. As they made their way into uncharted territory, it became clear Eli's father would not be able to follow where they were going. Seeing no escape or rescue in his near future and being a survivor at heart, Eli assimilated into the tribe and thrived. Years later, he'd found himself thrust back into white society as war and disease took their toll on his Comanche brethren. His transition this time would not be as smooth. This is Eli McCullough's and his family's story.
One son who may be his father's undoing.
Colonel Eli McCullough was thought by all to be a hero. He'd survived an Indian attack, living in captivity, and the settling of a part of Texas that was one of the last frontiers of the United States. His name, thanks to his great-granddaughter, was beginning to make its way into the history books. But one thing can change all that. As the story begins, Jeanne Anne McCullough, granddaughter to Eli McCullough, lay dying in her family home. One of her last thoughts is of the one thing she left undone..."The papers, she thought. She had saved them from the fire once and had not gotten around to destroying them. Now they would be found."
As the story begins, we get three distinct views from three very different people of one man, Eli McCullough. One view is from Eli's own perspective, one is from his son's, Peter's, and the last is by Eli's great-granddaughter's, Jeanne's. Eli is a man's man. He's charismatic and easy to like and has that quality that makes people follow him. An air, if you will, that he knows what he's doing and that calls to many people. His son Peter, however, is a more gentle soul and has a very different view of his father than most. I have to admit at times his perspective came off as annoying because he pretty much hated his father yet constantly tried to gain his approval. Toward the end of his diary entries, he realized if he ever was to be happy, he had to lead his life on his terms and not those of his father. He could never be the son his father wanted. He didn't want to be that person.
My favorite of the three McCulloughs was Jeanne. In a way, she was her great-grandfather's great-granddaughter. The two were very much alike. Jeanne and Eli were both straddling two worlds. Jeanne was smart, ambitious, and had a good head on her shoulders and was a woman trying to fit into a man's world. A world who thought women should stay home barefoot and pregnant. At one point, she states, "People made no sense to her. Men, with whom she had everything in common, did not want her around. Women, with whom she had nothing in common, smiled too much, laughed too loud, and mostly reminded her of small dogs; their lives lost in interior decorating and other peoples’ outfits. There had never been a place for a person like her." For Eli, he was trying to fit back into a white man's society when part of him would always long for the lifestyle of the Indian's who'd stolen him. Neither Eli or Jeanne felt they entirely fit into either of the worlds they were straddling. Perhaps that's why they bonded so easily to one another. Unfortunately, they both ended up surrounded by others, yet very lonely.
I loved Eli's story. If you're looking for a romanticized view of the west, this is not the story for you. This story depicts a harsh, often brutal look at a land untamed with little to no law. Where people would be there one day and gone the next--the victims of a deadly attack. Where neighbors would often work together not for the good of the whole but to claim the land of another. Where you took what you wanted, and killed any who tried to take it away. Where the law could be bribed to look the other way and killed when they didn't comply. As Eli stated, "There is a myth about the West, that it was founded and ruled by loners, while the truth is just the opposite; the loner is a mental weakling, and was seen as such, and treated with suspicion. You did not live long without someone watching your back and there were very few people, white or Indian, who did not see a stranger in the night and invite him to join the campfire." and "Only bullets and walls make for honest neighbors."