I will start off by saying that this was the best book I
read (listened to) during 2015, and I was ecstatic to hear that it was being made into a TV series. The series does not disappoint.
This sprawling epic, in the tradition of John Jakes and James Mitchner, spans the gory history of the McCullough family and their rise to prominence as West Texas cattle barons over four generations, from young Eli McCullough in the pre-Civil War West Texas frontier around Fredericksburg to Jeanne McCullough, his great-granddaughter in modern Houston, Texas. The story is told from three distinct points-of-view; the first is the patriarch, Eli, the second is his sensitive and moralistic son, Peter, and the third is Peter’s granddaughter, Jeanne Ann.
At a tender age, Eli establishes himself as a leader. Although he is not the oldest of his siblings, he is the self-appointed protector of his homestead in his father’s absence. When his family is brutally attacked by a marauding band of Comanche, (quite explicit and gory), he manages not only to survive, but to become an accepted member of their tribe. Over the span of the next 80 or so years, he weathers many escapades, learning to adapt to his current situation in order to persevere. He is a fascinating, gritty, if not necessarily heroic, character-study.
He has three sons, each representing one side of his personality. One, the protector, willing to go to any lengths to protect his family’s fortune and reputation, whatever the personal cost; one a brawler, who believes that brawn over brains is the best coarse of action; and one the philosopher. This one, Peter, is the second narrator. He is the least like his father, and they clash. He sees the injustice and is sensitive to the immoral, unethical actions his father and brothers feel justified in taking to keep what they view as rightfully theirs. He finds that he can not sit by and witness their hubris.
Of his off-spring, the one who most takes after Eli is his great-granddaughter, Jeanne. She’s tough, brave, and wily. As a woman in a decidedly man’s world, she works hard to fit in, but fit in she does. Eli’s tutelage pays off, and she follows in his footsteps; she is just as determined as he to preserve her birthright, no matter the cost. And she winds up paying the ultimate cost.
I enjoyed the 3 POV format, even though I had to download a family tree to keep all the characters straight. I especially appreciated Jeanne Anne’s perspective, wondering all the way through what exactly was going on with her. I was not disappointed.
The story comes full circle at the end, as a matter of fact, the ending is Biblical. I won’t explain why because I fully recommend it for reading and don’t want to leave spoilers. But read it! You might have to read it twice, or you can just watch the AMC television series.
*Warning: there are many disturbing events and actions depicted in the book.