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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. Mr. Meyer enjoys citing Indian names too obscene for English translation. He clearly establishes the sexual conventions of Comanche life, with young women behaving as aggressors and young braves not always sure whose bodies are at hand on very dark nights. One very tough, much-cited passage from this book describes the precise details of buffalo slaughter and the harvesting of body parts. Mr. Meyer’s research entailed tanning hides and drinking blood, just as his Comanche characters do. “The Son” is also narrated by Peter McCullough, Eli’s morally conflicted, much weaker son, who is seared by early memories of a vicious McCullough-led raid on the family’s prosperous Mexican neighbors. This shameful legacy is as important to this book as the glory days of the Comanches are. And though Peter’s chapters lack the oomph of the stories that precede and follow, they convey the paralysis of a decent man trying hard to make sense of the violence that surrounds him. Peter is not up to that task, but his contribution to family lore becomes a major one.
The Glory and Brutality of a Purebred Texan Clan (The New York Times 6/20)