4 out of 4 stars
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The story of Hiram McDowell, a man who uses those around him to better himself, is an interesting one. McDowell is not a likable character. He is rude, sexist, and blunt. This makes liking his character really hard at first. McDowell by William H. Coles is the story of this character. He’s a surgeon who is trying to be appointed a place in the President’s cabinet. Everything is going well for him. He has status, money, and a good job. However, his personal life is a mess, but he doesn’t care. His focus is on himself. He doesn’t care what happens to anyone else. Then tragedy strikes, and his whole world is turned upside down. He loses everything that ever matter to him and he must find a new meaning for his life.
This book is character driven. There is a plot, but the most interesting part is McDowell's transformation. After reading the first few chapters, I hated his character. He treated everyone around him like inferior beings. He treated the women especially badly, and I don’t think he viewed them as human. As the book progressed though, he changed. His relationship with his daughter, Sophie, helped to humanize him. The multiple narrative perspectives also gave a well-rounded view of his character. Additionally, after the tragedy, his world view changed and so did his treatment of others. This growth made the book feel like a coming-of-age novel, despite McDowell being a full-grown adult. This was my favorite part of the novel.
The only issue I had with this book was some of the phrasing. It was awkward at times. For example, at the beginning of chapter 4, it says “glorious she was at thirty-eight”. The syntax here is just odd. It’s not technically wrong. It’s just awkward. However, for the most part, the wording is spot on. The imagery is vivid and detailed without being overwhelming. There are just a few sentences that don’t flow well.
I did notice a few grammatical mistakes. However, they were not distracting at all. There were not enough to warrant taking a star from the rating either. This book is truly an amazing read. I am happy to rate this one 4 out of 4 stars.
If you enjoy a character-based book, you will really enjoy this one. I would recommend this one to older teenagers and up. There are a lot of heavy topics mentioned that might not sit well with younger audiences. There is nothing explicit, but some of the themes are mature. After getting into it, I found myself not wanting to put it down. It was eye-opening and really made me think. If at all possible, I encourage you to read this book.
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