The sins of the fathers are always visited upon the sons—and in Meyer’s sweeping, absorbing epic, there are plenty of them.
As the first child born in the new Republic of Texas, or so it’s said, Eli McCullough fills big shoes. Yet he stands in the shadow of his older brother, who reads books and has a strange attachment to his sister—one that will be cut short when Comanches descend and, in a spree worthy of Cormac McCarthy, put an end to all that: “My mother had not made a sound since I woke up, even with the arrows sticking out of her, but she began to scream and cry when they scalped her, and I saw another Indian walking up to her with my father’s broadax.” Years living in semicaptivity with the Comanches teaches Eli a thing or two about setting goals and sticking to them, as well as a ruthlessness that will come in handy when he begins to build a cattle empire and accrue political power. His son is less deft; caught up in the cross-border upheaval of the Mexican Revolution, he finds himself out of place and adrift (“You’re a big man,” says one ranch hand to him, “and I don’t see why you act like such a small one”) and certainly no favorite of his ever-demanding father. Meyer’s sophomore novel deftly opens with entwined, impending deaths across generations, joining tangled stories over three centuries, the contested line between the U.S. and Mexico, and very different cultures; if sometimes it hints of McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove and Ferber’s Giant, it more often partakes of the somber, doomed certainty of Faulkner: “There had been one grandson everyone liked, who had loved the ranch and been expected to take it over, but he had drowned in three feet of water.”
An expertly written tale of ancient crimes, with every period detail—and every detail, period—just right.