4 out of 4 stars
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Hiram McDowell was a determined and motivated man. He was concerned with furthering his career as a surgeon and aspired to be president of the board of directors of the International College of Surgeons. He was also an expert climber, a professional level musician, and had a clinic in Nepal. He did what was necessary to make his goals happen. It didn’t matter who or what tried to get in his way. The people around him both admired and despised him. He blamed others for his mistakes and the consequences they resulted in. He took no responsibility for his actions and did only what served his purposes. This included his third marriage.
The author was able to weave together the stories of all the important people in Hiram’s life before his collapse, and all those who impacted his life of change after it. In the beginning, we are introduced to his children, who seem to be the only people he truly cares about. Ann is a stay at home wife and mother who is very concerned about her children. Her son, Jeremy, worries her because he has become violent. Billie is a musician who is trying to find his path in life. Sophie is an artist who finds a passion in photography. We also meet a reporter named Paige Sterling, who is doing a story on Hiram to promote him for a task force on healthcare by the president. She later works on a biography about him.
There are some questionable activities revealed and an event that ends Hiram’s career. After his downfall, we meet some characters that help him along his path. Maud is a former literature professor who helps Hiram see that he has always been selfish, not taking responsibility for what happens in his life. Meeting Willie, a street musician, provided him the chance to give selflessly to another for the first time. Eric Paget, a lay preacher and former CPA, advised Hiram to think about how different his life would have been if he had treated people with kindness. There are several others as well who impact his journey to self discovery, and with his memoir. In his search for hope and future, he explores the idea of what “makes people do what they do”.
I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. McDowell by Willaim H Coles was a gripping book about the life of a man who you hated at first. Although his intentions were unusually not honorable, Hiram McDowell was a man learning to change. This quality made him an endearing character and made me want to keep reading. The book was well edited and moved at a smooth pace. The story knit together the lives of everyone he touched in some way and those who touched him as he became a changed man.
What I liked most about this book is how it gives hope that even the most difficult, horrible people can learn to be a better version of themselves. Hiram was by no means a perfect man, but he started to have a changed perspective due to his experiences and the people he encountered. After everything went south for him, he was so sure that everyone in his life had conspired against him. He expresses, “I’m angry all the time. I can’t get rid of it.” Later in the book, we can see that he is more relaxed, selfless, joyful, and peaceful. He learned to get rid of his anger.
I honestly cannot think of anything I disliked about this book. Although there were some intimate scenes and heavy language I would prefer to do without, it shaped who the characters were. This book gives the reader a chance to explore their own feelings on some hot topic subjects, and look at them through the lens of the people involved. The transitions between the different characters were logical and coherent. We were given the chance to see how this man impacted those around him, as well as the decisions they made in their own lives. I thought the level of impact Paige had on the story was fitting for her role in the search for truth. I also thought the ending was perfect. I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone who is shy around sensitive language or intimacy as well as those who can’t handle heavy subject matter. I would recommend this to anyone, teenagers and older, who wants a book that makes you think and feel deeply.
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