Review by bellaterrabooks -- McDowell by William H. Coles

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Latest Review: McDowell by William H. Coles

Review by bellaterrabooks -- McDowell by William H. Coles

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[Following is a volunteer review of "McDowell" by William H. Coles.]
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3 out of 4 stars
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McDowell by William H. Coles introduces Hiram McDowell, a complex person confronted with the arduous task of living on the fringes of society. Dr. McDowell is an accomplished surgeon with profound successes. He has hiked the highest peaks and established a nonprofit hospital benefiting the less fortunate of Nepal. Despite his numerous accomplishments, Hiram feels disconnected with everyone in his life, including his wife, children, co-workers, and supposed friends. He is a loner living an isolated existence. Everything is forever changed when a family tragedy strikes, including Hiram’s status in society and his interactions with it. His opulence and successes are no longer important. His nonprofit organization and accolades are in shambles around him. Hiram discovers his authentic self beneath the external life that he has scrupulously created for himself. The barriers that he has established with others are challenged, and his relationship to the outside world becomes turbulent when confronted with his current reality. Shaken to his core, he must plot an unfamiliar course and construct a life from the residual pieces.

The story centers around Hiram, yet some strong supporting characters emerge to fill in the narrative in the form of Hiram’s children: Ann, Billie, and especially Sophie. Additionally, the book follows the path of Paige, a journalist tasked with the mission of uncovering the backstory of Hiram. She fulfills a dominant role as she navigates her place in her community alongside monitoring Hiram’s movements. As her journalistic integrity is disputed, she confronts the dilemma of her career. She must choose between adhering to the story despite her newly discovered attachments to the McDowell family or forgo her profession in favor of those sentimental bonds. Hiram’s youngest daughter, Sophie, embarks on a journey of her own. As she blossoms into young adulthood in a big city, her expanded worldview opens her eyes to diversity. Likewise, she is tested when the family tragedy emerges, thereby disrupting her resolve. She needs to mature beyond her station to cope with the new reality affecting Hiram and her family.

There are tertiary figures that round out the supporting characters such as Hiram’s wife, Carol, and those in Paige’s social group. The story builds in layers with each new tier uncovering a current dimension of the personalities and the narrative itself. The author’s ability to create this mosaic of characters is akin to a great sculptor creating a masterpiece from clay. Each fresh piece produces another measure to the story, supplementing the mystery of Hiram and the family. Each of these individuals struggles with their own sense of belonging, as demonstrated throughout the book. While some desire integration into their community, others are inclined to remain in the shadows observing society from a distance.

I relished the interconnection of the characters and the differing perspectives of the book. While Hiram remained the lead figure, the other personalities augmented the grit of the story by developing a rich tapestry. The imperfect features of the individuals were poetic as they were deficient as humans rather than flawed merely for the sake of the fiction. When Sophie is navigating interactions with Hiram as a daughter to a father, this was entirely rational. A child might struggle in communicating with their father, particularly given the exceptional circumstances. In a traditional model, children customarily would depend upon their mother under adverse conditions. Therefore, it is anticipated that Sophie could experience some trepidation when it came to speaking to Hiram in fundamental ways.

I equally admired the evolution of each character as the story progressed. For instance, Paige began as an investigative reporter intent on uncovering a story; however, as she delved deeper into Hiram’s background, she became attached to his family and further wanted to protect them. Through her connections to Sophie, she felt a bond to the object of her reporting. She wished to conduct precise reporting, both for her career and for the family.

There was very little not to enjoy within this book. The character development was graceful, so the philosophy of the antagonists’ behavior is well-established. The author's writing style presents the major plot points from the separate perspectives of the primary characters so the reader can see alternative views. This additionally allows the motivation of the characters' behaviors to be better understood.

Overall, I would provide this book an excellent rating. There were some grammatical and punctuation errors, which would mark it down a bit according to the scoring guidelines. Based on the guidelines only, I would give this book 3 out of 4 stars. This book is a delightful story about a flawed character struggling with his identity, a family in turmoil, and a journalist attempting to find her own individuality. There are some violent scenes that could be disturbing to young readers or those that are sensitive to graphic imagery. Accordingly, I would recommend this novel as an unpredictable book filled with a plethora of intersecting characters with a side of adventure.

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