4 out of 4 stars
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McDowell is the story of a US surgeon Hiram McDowell, who climbs mountains in Nepal for a pastime. His profession and inheritance help him lead a life of his choice crisscrossing the globe. He marries thrice and has a lady love in parts of the world he frequents. He builds a hospital in Nepal, staffs and runs it with funds raised through auctions in the US and through the sale of a book on his memoirs. The author William H. Coles takes us through Hiram's journey of power, trysts with the media, and struggle to support his children from his previous marriages.
Hiram is an ambitious doctor, but indifferent, selfish, insensitive and promiscuous on the personal front. However, he is a responsible father and chooses to take care of his three children Ann, Sophie, and Billie. He earns adequately to support them and helps them build a career.
Hiram is clever, sociable and manipulative. He becomes the Regent to the board of directors of the International College of Surgeons. His philanthropy helps him gain political visibility and he is proposed for the position of Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Hiram strives to establish his capabilities as Regent and achieve the distinctive position of Secretary of Health and Human Services. The media investigates funding for his hospital in Nepal and scrutinizes his research reports. Discrepancies in the medical research are brought to light. Hiram cleverly accounts these as oversight, but nevertheless bears the humiliation of more inquiries, besides pressure from the media.
A TV news reporter Paige Sterling, who attends his fundraiser for Nepal questions the legitimate use of the funds. Hiram is on the defensive and Paige is setting her stakes to make a killer story. William H Coles describes the treachery of media reporting very well in these sections.
While prepping for the Secretary of Health position, Hiram's elder daughter undergoes a family crisis which is also draining his finances. Hiram steps in to intervene but gets caught and imprisoned for murder. The second half of the book describes Hiram's tryst with destiny as he escapes from prison and wanders through America - hiding, begging on the streets by playing music, doing odd jobs, living in the outdoors.
His wanderings bring him few friends who help him maintain sanity amidst all the humility that he has to face. He is often hounded by the harsh reality of his status after the escape. During his travels, Hiram writes notes on his actions as Regent, researcher, and as a parent. The notes grow into a book that he wishes to publish, in a desperate need to justify his past and attempt to return to a normal life.
McDowell the book is a skeptical reminder of life's inequalities. Hiram's travels and clever planning to avoid being caught are illustrated very well. Hiram's fall from grace and the sea change in his attitude to eke out a few pennies and get a decent meal and bed are sometimes very touching. The journeys of Hiram's daughter Sophie and Paige the TV reporter as they struggle to make a career bring relief to the monotony of Hiram's wanderings.
William H. Coles is sometimes brunt, sometimes touching and down to earth in the portrayal of the various characters and pleasant descriptions of the places where Hiram travels. I rate McDowell the novel, 4 out of 4 stars for its realistic portrayal of the two unconnected periods in Hiram Mcdowell's life. Men at some time are masters of their fate. Each is therefore made accountable for the choices they make and the outcome of these choices decide their life. This is well articulated and William H. Coles must be credited for that.
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