4 out of 4 stars
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I finished reading McDowell by William H. Coles and gave it 4 out of 4 stars. The novel follows Dr. Hiram McDowell, a world-renowned surgeon with philanthropic endeavors in Nepal. He does a lot of mountain climbing around the world, tolerates his wife and children, and generally thinks very highly of himself. Through a series of events, he ends up completely walking away from this high-power, high-income life. We follow his journey as his way of thinking evolves and he considers how much his actions result in the consequences he is now dealing with.
Along the way, he comes to rely on and appreciate people he would have originally overlooked as inconsequential to his more valuable existence.
Overall I absolutely loved this book. At first I had a hard time getting into it, I had read the excerpt and expected to despise Hiram. However, the author has skillfully made him an egotistical human who sincerely hasn’t considered that the world does not cater to whatever his desires and beliefs are. Things seem to happen for him in the way he wants them to and he hasn’t stopped to consider that someday his life may not turn out exactly how he had planned. I became more emotionally attached to his children and their lives than I had expected. Hiram’s actions affect their stories greatly but they are strong and eventually forge their own paths without (or maybe despite) his help.
There is also a reporter, Paige, who is an essential part of the story and does some maturing of her own as well. Her story is fascinating and a perfect complement to Hiram’s. The play between the two creates a lot of interesting drama without being cheesy or forced. She is separate from him on the surface but their journeys intersect and travel along the same road in a less than obvious way. She has a close friendship with Hiram’s daughter, Sophie. This results in her helping Sophie deal with some trauma associated with the life she was dealt and together they grow to see the world differently.
There is one part of the story where Hiram is on the run. He has camped out in a small town in Montana, staying with a family who is basically off the grid. A private investigator is able to track him down. While this was important to the overall story, I wish we had some more background information on how the investigator was able to find him. It felt almost like tv sitcom magic, the investigator was able to track him down because we needed a new plot twist and we only had half an hour to do it. There were also a couple of typographical errors; however, the book has obviously been professionally edited and skillfully written.
I would recommend this story to anyone who enjoys being challenged to consider the consequences of their actions to the world around them. The author doesn’t lay out the answers for the reader. Instead, snippets of facts and decisions made lend the reader to make their own conclusions about right and wrong. These small steps are woven together to create a picture of life and how it may not always be what it seems. This novel takes a hard look at journalism and how the media can emphasize or influence facts to paint the scenario they wish to convey.
The exact same facts and exact same characters in a news story can be presented to make the players good or evil, depending on the editing team’s emphasis. I believe this has always been the case, and now more than any other point in my lifetime that media influence is shaping our world. Hiram and his family’s entire lives were influenced by one news team’s decisions. The news was originally brought into being to make people more informed. Now, through the greediness of networks or possibly other factors, that message is heavily influenced by money instead of a search for the truth. This story is a shining example of how power can be used for good or evil.
This is a great story and I would highly recommend it to anyone. The characters are well-developed, the story is engaging. The emotional toll taken on the reader is not overwhelming, but you are invested enough to want to see everyone make it out okay in the end. Reading this book will make you take a step back and consider what consequences your actions may have, and what unintended repercussions may be faced by those around you.
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