3 out of 4 stars
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McDowell by William H. Coles is a story about a person who has everything the most of us dream of. A lot of money, brains and a skill to work hard. Hiram McDowell is a top surgeon. He’s driven, ambitious and reaches the top of his profession just to lose it all. The book deals with a question, what can become of a person after the success is gone and the ego stripped away? Is the redemption possible?
The story is told in two parts, first follows Hiram McDowell through his success and eventual downfall, through the eyes of himself, his family and colleagues. He is established as an unpleasant person who one could not possibly like. The second part follows Hiram’s journey across the USA mostly through the eyes of a people he meets. It’s a story about a man finding himself after he has lost everything, his journey and a search for a meaning in life. The parallel story is given through the eyes of his daughter, Sophie, and a journalist determined to write Hiram’s biography and show him for what he is.
What I liked about the books was the contrast between the first and the second part of the book. In the first part, we see a selfish person. Hiram is arrogant and selfish despite being a philanthropist, inconsiderate despite having a large family and he will cast aside or step over anybody who doesn’t fill his needs. During the first part of the story, it’s easy to decide that Hiram is a psychopath without redeeming qualities and wish for his pre-told destruction.
In the second part, he has to face his downfall. It is easy to appear a good person when you have everything but what to do when you have to start all over? The bookshop owner, the protagonist meets along the way tells “It’s no good if people seek success and money only for their own satisfaction and self-worth. People content in themselves learn to give selflessly, without concern for personal gain, to learn the joy of being human.” The story is laced with a casual philosophy and different characters Hiram meets along the way are three-dimensional and each unique in their own way.
The side of the book I found unsatisfactory was the rushed ending. While most of the conflicts were wrapped up some solutions for the side characters didn’t grow naturally from the story but felt artificial. Also, there are some typos in the text. In a few places, your and you’re are mixed up while some words are missing or replaced by the wrong word.
I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars due to occasional typos and a rushed ending. With an additional round of proofreading, this book would deserve a full score and would be a good read for a person who enjoys a thought-provoking fiction. The author has done a good job at presenting a personal-growth and redemption story without becoming judgemental or preaching. However, despite the implied mountaineering background of the main character, the story would probably be too slow paced for a reader looking for an excitement and thriller.
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