4 out of 4 stars
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I rated McDowell, by William H. Coles, 4 out of 4 stars. This is a fascinating and thought-provoking novel. The plot and character development are exceptional, as is the writing and editing.
This novel would appeal to the reader who is fascinated by character study and development, and a nuanced examination of ethics and success in our modern world
Hiram McDowell is not a nice guy. Self-centered, arrogant, and ambitious, he is also remarkably accomplished; a skillful surgeon, professional-level musician, writer, world-class mountain climber, car restorer. He conquers women much like mountain peaks; once he reaches the summit, there’s nothing left but to move on to the next ascent. Anyone left behind is on their own. This is not true, we find, of his relationship with his children, with whom he is completely engaged. And who through his considerable resources he seeks to further their professional and personal fulfillment. And it is through a life-altering tragedy involving his children that Hiram’s view of success drastically changes. Hiram is forced to abandon his life of status and privilege and undertake a journey of self-discovery which introduces us to unique and interesting characters who will shape his thinking and form the path for his ultimate redemption.
Despite the writer’s obvious skill, I expected I would not enjoy this novel after reading the first couple chapters. My initial thought was I do not care about these character’s; they all seemed so unsympathetic. Furthermore, I don’t know people like this. Do people actually live like this? Talk like this? But the further I read I was drawn in to the nuance. What does it mean to be a good father? What is the measure of a man’s relative goodness? As the story progresses, we meet more interesting characters, all of whom bring different perspectives on what constitutes “success”. I completely enjoyed the characters whom Hiram meets along his odyssey. The author gradually and quite successfully transitions the main character of the narrative from Hiram to his daughter Sophie. She ends up being my favorite character in the book, the most admirable, and ultimately the heroine of the novel.
Mr. Coles is a first rate writer and accurate observer of the human condition. Despite my early misgivings I soon found myself not only engrossed in the narrative, but also engaging in serious introspection.
This novel actually made me feel better about myself. Perhaps I can find forgiveness for the selfish misdeeds of my earlier years, put the past behind me and be a better father and husband. Whatever stage in your career or family life you will benefit from reading this insightful novel.
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