3 out of 4 stars
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At the beginning of McDowell, Hiram McDowell is a world-renowned surgeon, President of the Board of Surgeons, head of the Department of Surgery in Denver, and founder of a hospital serving the people of Nepal. Extraordinarily, he also finds time to climb the mountains of Nepal, run marathons, and dabble in his beloved hobbies of music and women. At first glance, William H. Coles has created a character who has it all.
A series of self-inflicted events expose Hiram McDowell’s broken moral compass for what it is. He fulfills his agenda without considering the impact it will have on others. He never takes responsibility for his actions, and places blame elsewhere when necessary. Hiram’s corrupt actions leave colleagues with no choice but to investigate their topmost doctor. Professional disaster and legal turmoil have Hiram suddenly fleeing from his upper-class lifestyle for the innocuous refuge between U.S. coasts. Will Hiram find the solitude and redemption he so desperately seeks, or will his past, and the law, catch up with him before has time to clear his name?
I have a difficult time pinpointing what I like most in this two-part novel. Many likable moments peak throughout the text, much like the sun briefly shining on an overcast day. Hiram’s daughter, Sophie, is arguably the most likable character in this book. She is regularly present and frequently fights for the leading role of McDowell. Sophie’s interesting life fills many pages of this novel. However, the overabundant coverage often seems irrelevant to a story spanning many years.
I dislike several things about this book. Part one merely scratches the surface of daily life and thus is slow to interest the reader. The story often jumps around and lacks necessary depth and detail. The endless introduction of new characters sometimes leaves the reader feeling overwhelmed. Other areas of the book contain predictable plots and leave little to the imagination. Hiram’s third wife, Carole, describes her husband as a man who can play the harmonica with a soul he otherwise lacks. The same soulless description can be used to describe the first part of this book.
While I strongly dislike part one of McDowell, the content initially provided is necessary to understand the last half of the story. The second part of the book immediately captures my interest and successfully brings tears to my eyes. Although a few minor errors are present, a redemptive story entices me to budge on a prematurely low score and ultimately rate McDowell 3 out of 4 stars. I recommend this book to patient readers who appreciate a lengthy novel that comes together at the end.
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