4 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
In McDowell, William H. Coles has presented a compelling story of atonement. The atoner is the titular character, Hiram McDowell, who is introduced to us as a gifted surgeon, a ruthless careerist, a shameless philanderer, and in general an amoral, nasty piece of work. His only redeeming feature is his love of his children. That aside, there is nothing to like about Hiram McDowell, and those who he has mistreated in the book will concur with the reader that he needs taking down a peg or two.
Indeed, this is the initial hook of the story. McDowell is so narcissistic, callous and unlikeable that the reader will want to see him get his comeuppance. And when it comes, it is shattering for McDowell, and ultimately sobering. Stripped of his power and prestige, forced to go on the run from the law, he is forced to learn virtue while living as a poor fugitive. And this spiritual awakening sees the struggle of a deeply flawed man making an effort to become a better person.
What keeps the reader turning the pages is curiosity over how McDowell copes with his downfall, and then curiosity over how his personal struggle will pan out. The initial contempt that McDowell evokes gives way to understanding and eventually sympathy. The issues that McDowell confronts in his self-examination are ones that most of us have to deal with at some level, and Coles deserves credit for relaying these issues without being didactic or preachy in their presentation.
McDowell contrasts favorably with another of Coles’ novels, The Spirit of Want. The pacing of McDowell is much better, with the characters fleshed-out more plausibly and the sub-plots better realized. However, all of this works as support to the main story arc of McDowell’s personal journey. Though McDowell starts off as a worse person than Lucy in The Spirit of Want, he becomes in the end what Lucy never succeeded in being – a likeable protagonist that the reader could, with qualifications, identify with.
I have no hesitation in giving McDowell 4 out of 4 stars. Coles has provided a well-written and engrossing chronicle of how even the worst of us can improve with honest self-examination and genuine effort, and a story that can provide that is one that everyone can benefit from reading. In short, I recommend McDowell to everyone.
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon | on iTunes | on Smashwords
Like Values_and_standards's review? Post a comment saying so!