4 out of 4 stars
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A novel written by award-winning author William H. Coles, McDowell is one of the best examples of Literary Fiction I have read since such authors as Salinger and Fitzgerald. With the character of Hiram McDowell, Coles ranks right up there with the best.
The stage is set from the very first chapter when we are introduced to the character of Hiram McDowell performing the first of many morally questionable acts that we will see throughout the book. Hiram is a world-renowned surgeon, president of the International College of Surgeons, has started a highly successful foundation which funds a much needed hospital in the third world country of Nepal. He is a world-class mountain climber, having tackled Mt. Everest and every other mountain above 8,000 feet. Hiram is even nominated by the President of the United States to be the next Secretary of Health and Human Resources. Hiram though, is not a nice person. He is egotistical, narcissistic, values money and success above all else including his wife and children. Hiram shows no feelings other than anger and contempt when things do not go as he plans. Before he can take his place as the new Secretary of Health and Human Services, tragedy befalls Hiram. Having already lost his wife in a bitter divorce due to his infidelities and his refusal to allow his son Billie to the right thing, Hiram soon finds himself losing much, much more. Stripped of prestige and status, his name and reputation tarnished beyond compare, Hiram finds himself facing a lengthy prison sentence which he realizes he will not survive. Seizing his chance he escapes into the wilderness of Montana, drawing upon his skills as a mountain climber to survive. There he meets a woman that has him questioning himself, his self-confidence and his role in the events leading to his downfall. Can someone such as Hiram truly change his character?
This novel causes the reader to ponder many questions about human nature and about morality. It is thought provoking to say the least. Coles does a spectacular job portraying the character of Hiram, making him into a character you immediately dislike if not hate. Cole challenges readers by touching on controversial subjects such as euthanasia, school shooters, and mental health issues to name only a few. I love the brilliant twist at the end making the book all that more exciting. William H. Coles is, in my opinion one of the finest literary authors of our times. I could not stop reading this book, Hiram provokes strong emotions in the reader and they are not usually pleasant ones. I loved all the characters they each brought something of their own to the story, making it that much richer.
I can find very little fault with this novel, yes, it is different from your usual fiction novel, but who wants to read the same old tired plots over and over? I don't and so I intentionally seek out books such as this one. The ones that are a bit different in plot and characters. It is a novel that diverges from the norm and stands on its own.
The only minor, and I mean extremely minor aspect that I found myself not liking was the jump around of different points of view, one minute it is about Hiram, then suddenly about the reporter Paige, or the daughter Sophia, then Hiram again and so on. This was a bit distracting at first and it did take some getting used to, but after the first few jumps I got used to it and just followed the flow, allowing the jumps to add their own dimension to the overall story.
I found no grammatical errors and no spelling errors leading me to believe this book has been professionally edited. I must rate this a 4 out of 4 stars. If I could I would give it more. I loved just about everything about this novel. Coles should go down in history as one of many Great American Novelists with this work.
I recommend this to all adult and young adult readers looking for a challenging, divergent novel to read. Not for readers that are easily offended by self absorbed narcissists who feel women are lesser class citizens and should be treated as property or by the touchy subjects of euthanasia, mental health or school shootings.
Overall a super-terrific read by a superb author of our time. I am thankful for the opportunity to read and review this novel.
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