3 out of 4 stars
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In this thought-provoking and fast-paced narrative, the reader is constantly tossed to and fro between the two halves of a person: the one that builds a beautiful world for herself, and the one that sabotages it. The Spirit of Want by William H. Coles is a tragic tangle of poignant storylines and dreams not quite achieved.
Protagonist Lucy MacMiel is an accomplished defense lawyer in Atlanta, GA, where she grew up as the adoptive child of an affluent eye surgeon. In the midst of some of her own legal troubles, Lucy is drawn to Luke Osborne, an up-and-coming associate of her father’s. When Lucy's services are engaged to defend a televangelist accused of child molestation, she makes a rapid exit from her destination honeymoon with Luke to take the case. That's when she falls in love.
Coles did a great job of developing a complex protagonist that plays with the reader’s emotions. I found myself sympathizing with Lucy one moment and then questioning everything I thought I knew about her the next. Additionally, the plot was suspenseful and unpredictable, yet had a very believable and natural flow. Strategic time jumps take the reader through the years of Lucy's life and create a window into the long-term impact of her choices. There is a lot of thematic material to sift through, from socioeconomic status to gender roles to morality; Lucy very much struggles for, against, and with each of these, and I found myself pulled into the struggle with her again and again. The book was very well edited.
Although I enjoyed the book, there were a couple of features that pulled me out of it. For one thing, the story is told in three parts through the third person point-of-view, but shifts from one character to the next at the beginning of each chapter. During the first two parts of the book, this method of storytelling works well as the narrative is handed from character to character. These chapters are concise but self-contained. In part 3, however, the short chapters do not feel necessary because this part of the story is mostly told from Lucy's perspective; as a result, there are long sections of the book broken into multiple chapters without any apparent reason besides continuity. The effect of the method is lost during this final part.
Another slightly distracting feature of the book was that Luke was almost too much of a foil to Lucy; where she struggled, he was perfect in every way. Where she succeeded... he was still perfect in every way. There were so many other complex characters in the story, it felt strange that Luke was to be counted among their ranks considering that he was such an important character.
I'm giving this book a 3 out of 4 stars If you enjoy romance and tragedy, this book is for you. If you are looking for a page-turner that is electric with questions about identity and morality and will leave you shaking your head in wonder, this book is for you!
The Spirit of Want
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