4 out of 4 stars
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I give McDowell by William H. Coles four out of four stars. This book was unlike any other book I have read. It’s uniqueness as well as how the author was able to change my mind is why I liked it so much.
We begin at the summit of a mountain in the Himalayas, where Hiram McDowell leaves his friend and fellow climber to freeze to death. As we soon see, it is a perfect metaphor for how McDowell treats everyone in his life. Hiram McDowell is a very successful and skilled surgeon as well as an established humanitarian and philanthropist. He is a family man who is ready to be appointed to a presidential task force. Seems too good to be true? It is…major inconsistencies start to arise, in McDowell’s research as well as him humanitarian work. An astute journalist is assigned to do a biography begins to see that McDowell is not what he seems.
After a family tragedy strikes, McDowell’s life takes a huge turn. He’s on the run and blaming everyone but himself for his situation. As he begins writing his memoir, these feelings are very much at the surface of it. But as he journeys both physically and spiritually, will he realize that the results of his life are due to his own attitudes and choices? Can we redeem himself in the eyes of his family, the readers, and himself?
I don’t think I’ve ever hated a character within two pages of a book of a book before. I hated McDowell immediately. Cold, unfeeling and selfish- the word sociopath comes to mind. This book immediately leaves a sour taste in your mouth…but you want to keep going back for more!
It’s obvious McDowell is an intelligent man- He achieves much success, but doesn’t take any responsibility for the way that he treats people, believing himself to be a victim whenever anything goes wrong. For all his success, he doesn’t ever seem truly happy. McDowell has made many enemies throughout his life due to the way that he treats people- and each time one of these people tries to reveal McDowell for who he is, he always manages to find a way to get out of it- mostly by blaming others and feigning innocence. This works every time…until it doesn’t.
McDowell is soon on the run, a fugitive that is only able remain uncaptured because of his unique survival skills. We follow him on his adventures as he is on the run while he is also writing his memoir, centered mostly on how the world has been so unfair to him.
Somewhere along the way, I don’t even know where it happened; I started to realize I maybe didn’t hate him anymore. His actions begin to change, I think without even McDowell realizing it. And he also seems to for once be actually happy. I found myself rooting fore him to redeem himself, although he had a long way to go. The ending was a surprise to me- however it seems like the only thing that could happen in order for the reader to view him as a sympathetic character in the end. This book would appeal to readers who like a slow burn novel that pits you against a character, but then eventually, maybe changes your mind a little bit.
I liked that the author managed to change my mind- grant it, I wasn’t going to recommend him for sainthood or anything, but I wasn’t so sure that the world would have been better off without him anymore either.
The one thing I would’ve liked to see was a little bit more background- I would’ve liked to learn more about McDowell’s childhood…and how he came to be how he was. This was clearly a story of a person who was not average or normal in any way- a point that was very clearly illustrated by the contrast to all of the other characters in the story. He led an extraordinary life…perhaps the ending was his destiny all along.
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