The Son

This novel, the author’s second after 2009’s highly praised American Rust, is on just about every reviewer’s year-end top-10 list for 2013, and for good reason. As many have noted, this account of the blood-soaked settling of Texas has the sweep and vibrancy of an American classic. Told in rotating chapters by three members of the McCullough family whose lives span the history of the state, it is an unsparing but endlessly fascinating tale of conquest and greed, and the damage they do. At its heart is Eli McCullough, who as a 10-year-old is kidnapped by Comanches, becomes a respected—and brutal—warrior, and only reluctantly rejoins white society. There he becomes a Texas Ranger and a Confederate colonel before amassing a cattle empire—in part by killing his Tejano neighbors. His son, Peter, abhors his father’s cruelty and rapaciousness, but is too soft to protect his family’s interests. That job falls to Peter’s granddaughter, Jeanne Ann, a woman strong enough to become one of the world’s wealthiest oil barons despite the rampant sexism of the men in that business. Written with supple, sharp prose and notable for its attention to detail, The Son is one of the best American novels of the 21st century.