4 out of 4 stars
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Dr. Hiram McDowell has a lust for power, to put it mildly. He’s a surgeon, avid mountain climber, cheating husband (Carol is his third wife), unpleasant father to this new wife’s children and a coworker who, most definitely, would not be someone to trust. William H. Coles summarises this through Carol’s viewpoint - “she had no love for Hiram; he made her feel useless and unwanted and she hated being around him.” Good things come to bad people and, McDowell takes full advantage of this as he works towards becoming the very top of surgery.
What goes up, must come down, though. Everything starts to unravel when ‘television star journalist’, Paige, begins to write his biography and discovers the corruption and falsehoods McDowell has been holding back. Then Jeremy, who’s killed a puppy and been expelled numerous times from school, kills twelve people before attempting to kill himself too. Hiram McDowell is pinpointed as the neglectful father and, as soon as he visits Jeremy’s new state on life support, Jeremy suddenly passes away. Circumstantial evidence gets McDowell in prison as a second-degree murderer. Now, as he tries to re-enter society, he is starting from the bottom he never knew.
The woman laughed. “You’re out of control. So wedded to power you can’t think straight.”
The critical thing that makes this book so good is Coles’s narrative approach. Each chapter is from a different character’s perspective, holding varying degrees of reliability, and this allows for him to communicate with the reader to reveal details of the situation around them without giving too much away. We see as much as the characters do, know as much as they do. Despite this, there were no points where I felt troubled or felt that I had been left on a cliffhanger as many chapters finish with a paragraph written by an omniscient narrator. This medium makes the book feel more like a collection of short stories but, ultimately, offers completion and reader satisfaction.
Personally, I enjoyed the novel and would recommend it to anyone high school age or older. In addition, I believe it would be most beneficial to students to read this in literature classes as a way of examining the unique story format. McDowell is a thought-provoking and educational novel. The author took the opportunity to highlight issues in the human society, particularly in the corporate world, and they indeed create an impact on the reader. Hence why this book was easy to give 4 out of 4 stars, despite a few vocabulary errors. The themes include adultery, corruption, conspiracy and, most prominently of all, redemption. If McDowell, the very filth of society whether he’s at the top or the bottom of society, can be redeemed - so can you.
(McDowell, by William H. Coles, was published on August 22nd, 2015 and later became a finalist in the William Faulkner Creative Writing Competition. The novel is categorised as ‘other fiction’.)
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