By Keith Staskiewicz
June 14, 2013 at 04:00 AM EDT

Every year a small army of fiction writers trek into the wilderness in the hope of bagging that elusive and legendary creature: the Great American Novel. As with Philipp Meyer’s first novel, American Rust, his latest — the gripping, blood-soaked Western The Son — has GAN status in its sights. Straddling American history from pre–Civil War to post-9/11, the novel charts four generations of the McCulloughs, a Texas ranching and oil dynasty, through the eyes of three of its members: Eli, the family’s originator, who was captured by Comanches when he was an adolescent; Peter, his pacifist son; and Jeanne Anne, the modern-day matriarch. Meyer intercuts these three stories deftly and assuredly, and his period prose is tremendously rich in detail. It may not be the Great American Novel, but it certainly is a damn good one. A

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