Clocking in at just under 600 pages, you're going to want to clear your schedule for this one. It's the story of three characters; members of different generations of the same Texas family. Eli McCullough is the family patriarch — and his story begins in the 1850s when his family is murdered by a Comanche raiding party, and he's adopted by the tribe as a slave. He spends his formative teenage years with the tribe, learning their ways — an experience that informs the rest of his life, even after he rejoins Texas society, fights in the Civil War, and starts the McCullough family ranch.
Eli's son Peter's story begins in 1915, when some ne'er-do-well family members of the McCullough's long-time Mexican neighbors some cattle. So, much to Peter's chagrin, a hunting party is formed, which takes the law into its hands, killing the entire Mexican family. Peter, who admits (his story is told as a diary) that "There are those born to hunt and those born to be hunted. I have always known I was the latter."
But none of these characters is exactly representative of a typical Texan. They're all uncomfortable in their own times, and all seem to be trying to break the mold of what is expected of them. Eli is supposed to settle down and be a family man, but the wild streak he learned during his time as a Comanche won't allow him to do that. Peter is supposed to be the ruthless ranch owner, but he has the gall, instead, to be respectful of his neighbors rather than to constantly war with them. Naturally, this causes no small amount of conflict with his father. Peter explains: "There is nothing wrong with my father: he is the natural. The problem is those like myself, who hoped we might rise from our instinctive state. Who hoped to go beyond our nature." Peter hopes to be the better man and rise above the violence and war that is the order of the day.
And Jeannie, whose story traverses the last half of the 20th century, is supposed to be a demure Southern woman, but she actually takes the family ranch from post-war near-failure to a wildly successful oil empire, despite her supposed "limitations" as a woman in a man's world.
"I am not even slightly crazy. The white people are crazy. They all want to be rich, same as we do, but they do not admit to themselves that you only get rich by taking things from other people. They think that if you do not see the people you are stealing from, or if you do not know them, or if they do not look like you, it is not really stealing."But the Comanches and Mexicans are far from blameless. A Mexican ranch hand reflects on his situation, near the end of the novel:
"He was no better. His people had stolen land from the Indians, and yet he did not think of that even for an instant — he thought only of the Texans who had stolen it from his people. And the Indians from whom his people had stolen the land had themselves stolen it from other Indians."Clearly, this isn't a novel that will appeal to all readers, but I loved it. I first read Michener's Texas about 10 years ago, and I remember struggling to get through all 1,200 pages. This is a worthy successor (companion?) to that novel — and much better in many ways, in my opinion. So, if you're in to the historical epic, this is definitely a novel worth checking out.