3 out of 4 stars
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McDowell by William H. Coles is the story of a wealthy, self-absorbed surgeon who tends to place his needs and desires above those of his family, friends, and colleagues. Hiram McDowell is respected and renowned by many for his service to the medical community, but others see through his charm to the womanizing figure beneath. This book chronicles McDowell's rise and fall from the highest highs, summitting the tallest peaks in Nepal, to the lowest lows, living off the land in solitude fleeing the law.
Coles has a unique writing style that tends to jump around a bit and skip over considerable time periods from chapter to chapter. As this is my second book by Coles, I felt a bit more comfortable and accepted this as part of the author's style instead of allowing it to detract from the storyline. Thus, I give this book 3 out of 4 stars. There are things left to be desired, like closure on certain storylines and a background on why McDowell treats women the way he does. But underneath it all, Coles is a talented writer whose way with words create a uniquely interesting and superbly edited, error-free read.
The part of the story I most enjoyed was the time covering McDowell's adventures alone in the wilderness. It's not an easy task to live off the land, and I found the accounts of loneliness and yearning for humanity to be relatable and raw. We are bombarded early on in the story with images of McDowell as a womanizing, thankless, sorry excuse of a man. Then finally, when he is alone in the wilderness, we begin to see that he isn't all bad.
The ending of the book felt very abrupt and, as such, was my least favorite part. We spent hundreds of pages following the winding stories of McDowell's whereabouts, only to have it feel a bit anti-climactic in the end. It almost felt like Coles was desperate to finish the novel and threw what could have been several chapters of tying up loose ends into a quick ending that left the reader with more questions than answers.
I think this book will be appealing to readers who appreciate prose and the art of writing more than a detailed and logical storyline. Not to say the story isn't engaging, but the emphasis must be on the author's writing ability, and one shouldn't necessarily expect to leave the story with a clear message.
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