Congratulations to Jodi Paloni, winner of last week's Friday Freebie, the double-book prize package of Is This Tomorrow by Caroline Leavitt and The Glass Wives by Amy Sue Nathan.
The Son, the new novel by Philipp Meyer that is earning scads of praise, including this from NPR: "One of the most solid, unsparing pieces of American historical fiction to come out this century...The Son is vast, brave and, finally, unstoppable." It's a big book (561 pages), but in short here's the plot summary:
In 1859, Eli McCullough, the 13-year-old son of Texas pioneers, is captured in a brutal Comanche raid on his family's homestead. First taken as a slave along with his less intrepid brother, Eli assimilates himself into Comanche culture, learning their arts of riding, hunting, and total warfare. When the tribe succumbs to waves of disease and settlers, Eli's only option is a return to Texas, where his acquired thirsts for freedom and self-determination set a course for his family's inexorable rise through the industries of cattle and oil.I haven't had the chance to whittle down Mt. NeverRest (aka my To-Be-Read pile), but The Son is firmly lodged near the summit of that mountain of books awaiting my eyes. So, in the meantime, I'll refer you to the review by my friend Harvey Freedenberg (a fellow reader whose literary taste runs parallel to mine). Here's how he begins his review at Bookreporter:
And here's how Harvey concludes his review:It’s not clear whether anyone is still trying to write the Great American Novel, but the ambition Philipp Meyer has displayed in the two he has produced so far suggests he might be aiming in that direction. His 2009 debut, American Rust, focused on the plight of two desperate young men in a dying Pennsylvania steel mill town. In its story of six generations of a Texas family that spans 175 years of history, The Son takes on nothing less than the founding myths of the American West. Taken together, they mark Meyer as a young author with the confidence and technical skill to assume an important place in the ranks of his generation’s best writers. There’s nothing tentative in Meyer’s robust account. The Son is the frank, often violent story of successive waves of deception, lawlessness and outright theft that marked the settlement of Texas’s Hill Country.
Click here to read the full review at Bookreporter.Without compromising the novel’s pacing, Meyer, who now lives in Austin and reportedly read more than 250 books in preparation for writing The Son, tackles with a Melvillean zest a range of subjects that include the manufacture of bows and arrows and the butchering of buffalo. He deploys that local knowledge and research in a way that’s organic to the story, not intrusive. He’s especially adept at depicting the forbidding landscape, like the canyon “with fins and towers and hoodoos like observation posts, mesas and minor buttes, springs flowing brightly in the red rock,” so desperately fought over by the contesting parties. The Son is no potboiler “Cowboys and Indians” drama. That’s because, though he resists moralizing, Meyer takes pains to ensure that profound moral questions are never far from the surface of a story that's as big as its subject. The novel has antecedents (think of Thomas Berger’s Little Big Man and Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, to name two), but few equals in contemporary literature of this genre. Whether your tastes in entertainment run to Cormac McCarthy or Dallas, it’s a fair bet you will find this a sumptuous feast.
If you'd like a chance at winning a copy of The Son, all you have to do is email your name and mailing address to email@example.com
Put FRIDAY FREEBIE in the e-mail subject line. One entry per person, please. Despite its name, the Friday Freebie runs all week long and remains open to entries until midnight on June 13, at which time I'll draw the winning name. I'll announce the lucky reader on June 14. If you'd like to join the mailing list for the once-a-week newsletter, simply add the words "Sign me up for the newsletter" in the body of your email. Your email address and other personal information will never be sold or given to a third party (except in those instances where the publisher requires a mailing address for sending Friday Freebie winners copies of the book).
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