Monday, April 28, 2014

The Son

The Son by Philipp Meyer was a book group choice.   It is an epic book, epic being the word most
often used in reviews of the book, and for good is epic.

The Son is the story of Eli McCullough and his family.  Eli was born in 1836.  When he was thirteen years old, Eli and his brother were taken captive by a band of Comanche Indians, who killed their mother and sister.  Eli learned the Comanche ways and became their adopted and beloved son.  But as the years passed, the tribe became smaller until almost gone, and Eli was forced to find himself in back in the white world.  Eli became a bigger than life character-his children could never live up to his expectations, especially his son, Peter. However, Eli's great-granddaughter did carry on his lust for success.

The book's story is told between the perspective of the three main characters: Eli, Peter and JA (Jean Ann) and covers the time periods from 1849 to about 2001.  Because the story jumps around, and there are so many minor characters, I found it necessary to refer to the McCullough's family tree presented in the beginning of the book many times to try to keep everyone straight.  That was a bit of a distraction, but eventually, I had it all figured out. I liked reading the story from the different perspectives and time periods.

A Couple of Ho-Hum Books

Two books that I have recently read that I didn't find all that great: Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter and Burnt Mountain by Anne Rivers Siddons.

Beautiful Ruins was read by one of my book groups.  None of us found it to be a great read.  Part of
what put us off was the connections to the characters with Richard Burton (the actor).  Just seemed a bit far-fetched.  There were a couple of interesting items in the book, such as figuring out who was really the father of one of the characters.  But then, even that turned out to be disappointing.

Burnt Mountain by Ms. Siddons turned out to be a big disappointment for me.  I am a fan of her books that I have read.  This book was not at all at the same level of writing (of course, just my opinion).  It actually started out pretty well with the main character,
Thayer, going to summer camp and falling in love.  Of course, summer ended and she never heard from her love again.  Several years later, Thayer met and married an older Irishman, a professor who taught Celtic literature.  When Thayer's beloved grandmother died, she left Thayer a charming home outside of Atlanta, near another summer camp.  And then the whole book took a deep dive and ended poorly. It felt as if the author was in a huge hurry to end the book and didn't take the time to go into what caused the events at the end.  Very confusing and disappointing.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs came out in 2011.  I had no interest in
reading it for several reasons; primarily because it is a Young Adult book, and secondly, because it sounded strange.  Well, now I have read it and both reasons seem to fall quite short.  It is a very well written Young Adult book and yes, it is strange, but in a wonderful, interesting way.  I simply loved the book! (**Hint: I loved it even more after I finished the book and read A Conversation with Ransom Riggs at the end of the book...don't miss it!)

Jacob had always grown up listening to and being fascinated by his grandfather's stories of when he (the grandfather) was growing up.  As Jacob grew older, however, he didn't believe the stories.  When Jacob was sixteen years old, his grandfather was killed in front of him.  Jacob became very traumatized and as time went on, his family became more concerned about him. Finally, the family agreed that Jacob could travel to Wales with his father to seek out the orphanage where his grandfather had been sent to live during WWII to escape the Nazis when they invaded Poland.

Jacob discovered the old abandoned orphanage upon his arrival, but soon realized that it was not abandoned.  The same children who lived there when Jacob's grandfather was there were still there, living in some kind of time loop.  The "peculiar children" as they were called each had different and special talents...confirming the stories that Jacob had heard as a child, but no longer believed.  As Jacob came to know the children, he learned more about his grandfather's secrets.

"It was true, of course, what my dad had said: I did worship my grandfather.  There were things about him that I needed to be true, and his being an adulterer was not one of them.  When I was a kid, Grandpa Portman's fantastic stories meant it was possible to live a magical life.  Even after I stopped believing them, there was still something magical about my grandfather.  To have endured all the horrors he did, to have seen the worst of humanity and have your life made unrecognizable by it, to come out of all that the honorable and good and brave person I knew him to be-that was magical.  So I couldn't believe he was a liar and a cheater and a bad father.  Because if Grandpa Portman wasn't honorable and good, I wasn't sure anyone could be."

The story of this book is a very interesting concept...I found myself thoroughly enjoying it, and I am looking forward to reading the sequel.  The characters were well-developed and the story held my interest through-out.   It reminded me a bit of the Harry Potter series.