4 out of 4 stars
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Can a Narcissist Evolve?
You probably know, or at least have met, someone you feel is a narcissist. The Mayo Clinic defines narcissistic personality disorder as “a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration … and a lack of empathy for others.” Those words accurately describe the main character in William H. Cole’s riveting novel, McDowell . Cole has crafted a tale whose main character – Dr. Hiram McDowell – is as easy to dislike but also easy to admire. McDowell will have you feeling angry, anxious, thrilled, or breathless at various points throughout this enjoyable book.
Dr. Hiram McDowell is a high-profile surgeon and mountain climbing advocate living in Denver with his 3rd wife who stays in the marriage only for the benefit of his three children (one of whom still lives at home). When not performing miracles in the operating room, McDowell is off climbing the world’s tallest peaks or overseeing his most cherished philanthropic achievement: a free clinic in Nepal. A true narcissist, McDowell has a slew of problems he believes are not of his own making: at work, with his finances, among his professional peer group, and in his relationships with his children, current wife, and mistress. McDowell seems convinced that, possessed with a superior intellect, he can manage all of it without anything crashing down around him. Dr. McDowell regularly takes advantage of anyone he feels can help him get what he wants, usually with total disregard for what may happen to any of his enablers.
Cole has divided McDowell into two distinct parts, separated by a stunning plot twist: a family tragedy that rocks the doctor’s entire world and turns his idyllic life upside down. The cast of characters Cole introduces in each part are different in both their social stature and philosophy on life: the upper crust types of Part One are juxtaposed with the characters in Part Two who, mostly by choice, live in the shadows, away from everyday society.
Each of the characters McDowell meets in Part Two graft an important piece of their personality onto his in ways both obvious and subtle. The collective diversity of the characters Cole integrates into Part Two provide a needed depth to what could otherwise have been a pedestrian story with a predictable outcome.
McDowell provides a deep dive into the psyche of a textbook narcissist who may have one element in his particular makeup that most with the same personality flaw usually lack: a soul. If Dr. Hiram McDowell is to ever transform himself – if he is to truly evolve – he must accept the existence of his soul or forever banish it from his consciousness. I strongly suggest that you read McDowell to find out which path the good doctor chooses. Coles’ story gets a well-deserved 4 stars out of 4 from this reviewer.
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