4 out of 4 stars
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The fictitious novel McDowell by William H. Coles is an emotion drawing story of self-centeredness and its extended consequence in the life of Hiram McDowell. The lead character is introduced from the on-set as a successful career surgeon good at organizing social/humanitarian efforts, yet excessively given to the pursuit of “success and money.” One who “…believes that the whole world exists to serve him…” (9:47).
His inclination to use and dump people around him leaves them hurting – including, and especially family – while he progresses in career, becoming President of the Board of Regents of the International College of Surgeons. He gets nominated for a national assignment to be on a presidential committee, but fame has its challenges as well, as this feat exposes him to severe scrutiny, while colleagues and acquaintances he had left disgruntled, dig up dirt on him. Incidentally, greater pit fall comes when he aides the demise of his grandson – a minor mass murderer in comatose after unsuccessfully attempting to commit suicide.
When he would have peaked his career, Hiram McDowell is condemned and sentenced to jail but escapes and lives henceforth, as a fugitive running from place to place to avoid recapture. In the process he comes to circumstances and people who stamp on his mind the realization that life was more than his will.
The crux of the narrative is the 72nd chapter (pp. 215/216) where Maud posits in conversation with Hiram McDowell, that “It’s no good if people seek success and money only for their own satisfaction and self-worth. People content in themselves learn to give selflessly, without concern for personal gain, to learn the joy of being human.”
From this point onward, Hiram McDowell begins to seek a new purpose for his life, a slow but sure transformation. He dies feeling more accomplished than when he had had the pump of success and money.
While I would have preferred that the story simulated reality a little more accurately in the instance where Hiram McDowell goes to a musical concert, where he actually performs and nearly gets caught on stage – something a fugitive would not dare in real life – I appreciate its role in heightening suspense. I rate it 4 out of 4 stars.
Set in Louisville, Denver and numerous other locations including Nepal on another continent, McDowell is presented in two parts of 36 chapters each: part 1 tells of his background and rise, until he goes to jail, while part 2 is about his escape from prison and his on-the-run life, culminating in his fateful, sudden death and beyond.
McDowell is a sad story of one falling from grace to grass. In fact, Hiram McDowell’s entire life is captured in Tressler’s description in the 346th page as “A nemesis of hubris with a rise from the ashes.”
In my opinion, the author’s huge expertise in creative writing is brought to bear without doubt, and his style of short chapters – rather than few unending ones which might easily bore – keeps reading convenient and pleasing. It is a book carefully written and thoroughly edited; a sure delight for the reader who loves to tickle his emotions.
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