[The Son] 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 … Philipp Meyer has demonstrated that he can write a potboiler of the first rank, aswirl with pulpy pleasures: impossible love affairs, illicit sex, strife between fathers and sons, the unhappiness of the rich, the corruptions of power.
The Son spans 200 years, six generations and a great many eloquently evoked downfalls. It concentrates on one proudly purebred American family, though the delusion of that heritage will die by the end of this story … In some of the best sections of his vivid narrative, Mr. Meyer delineates the process of Eli’s assimilation...The most fascinating of many questions raised by The Son is how Eli, a dauntless little boy, grew from helplessness into absolute power … The reader learns in riveting detail about Eli’s Indian days. They are made that much more approachable by the book’s profanity, which sounds anachronistic but certainly adds colloquial flourish.
What a range Meyer has: He can disembowel a living soldier with just as much color and precision as when he slights a preppy debutante at a sleepover. He shows us Texas evolving from cattle to oil, from hardscrabble grassland to unimaginable opulence … I could no more convey the scope of The Son than I could capture the boundless plains of Texas. With this family that stretches from our war with Mexico to our invasion of Iraq, Meyer has given us an extraordinary orchestration of American history, a testament to the fact that all victors erect their empires on bones bleached by the light of self-righteousness.