4 out of 4 stars
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McDowell is a novel by William H. Coles. This is the first book I have read by Mr. Coles, but it certainly won’t be the last. Not only is this book exceptionally well-edited, it is a clever, well-written novel with an original plot. I was so intrigued, that as soon as I finished the book, I immediately started reading it all over again.
Initially, this was not an easy book for me to read. It was difficult to get past the first few chapters because I immediately formed the opinion that Hiram McDowell was a deplorable human being. I didn’t like reading about a character that I couldn’t respect. I hated the main character and almost put the book down. Fortunately, the story moved along quickly and the other characters were interesting.
As the story progressed, I was surprised to realize that I actually began to feel sorry for McDowell and didn’t seem to hate him as much. I liked that the author was able to spin the circumstances and weave a tale, in such a way that I began to root for McDowell. How was that even possible? Although I do not agree with some of McDowell’s decisions, I can appreciate how he believed he had made the right choices. I can also understand how others perceived him to be some kind of monster. Consequently, I began to consider if McDowell was being harshly misjudged and grievously misunderstood.
The first part of the book depicts a deplorable, ambitious, ruthlessly successful surgeon, who will walk over anyone to get what he wants. McDowell is presented as a misogynist, with moth-eaten integrity, and spotty family devotion. An avid mountain climber, Hiram takes the opportunity to establish a charity hospital in Nepal. As it happens, Nepal is a location that aligns with his mountaineering goals. Moreover, he throws lavish parties under the pretense of raising money for the hospital. His financial success and humanitarian efforts bring McDowell fame and fortune. Nevertheless, rumors of malfeasance, avarice, and deception begin to circulate. Eventually, McDowell is convicted of murder, and loses everything.
The second half of the book describes McDowell’s struggle to learn what he did to cause his fall from grace and perhaps what he could have done differently. The characters he meets are complicated, interesting, and insightful. As the story develops, a different side of McDowell begins to appear, causing me to question my original opinion. Albeit, McDowell was not a nice man and made mistakes, but was he evil? I also began to question if McDowell was unfairly judged and made to appear worse than he was. Did rumors and allegations, perpetuated by jealous and vengeful enemies, prejudice a jury?
If you like powerful dramatic stories with complex characters, where the lines of good and evil are blurred, then you will enjoy this book. After reading the book twice, I am still not sure if McDowell is a terrible person or is terribly misunderstood. I suggest you read the book and make your own judgment. As you can see, this novel left a lasting impression, and consequently, I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars.
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