4 out of 4 stars
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McDowell by William H. Coles is a fast-past captivating novel about the rise and fall of a talented aspiring surgeon named Hiram McDowell. The story exposes the truth that humans are capable of both good and bad. Hiram demonstrates that even if an individual seeks noble pursuits, self-centeredness and corrupt behaviors can subjugate a noble profession and philanthropic efforts into something wicked. The irony of the story is that in the beginning, McDowell is described leaving his climbing partner to die and at the end of the book McDowell is described rushing to save a life.
I enjoyed the ambiguous nature of the book. McDowell is a complex character. He depicts himself as a successful surgeon and philanthropist with many talents including music and climbing mountains. However, from the perspectives of others such as his wife, children, colleagues, friends, and media it is tough to decide whether to like him or hate him, have compassion for him or condemn him. The great thing is that the reader is given total autonomy to decide whether motives, personal beliefs or societal expectations make a person’s behaviors and decisions moral or evil. I spent the entire book trying to decide which of McDowell’s consequences seemed fair and just and which seemed undeserved or excessive.
The book is filled with many ideas regarding the politics of health care, fair reporting practices in journalism, corruption in philanthropic foundations and unjust practices in the workplace bringing a sense of authenticity and relevance to the current political environment. The author highlights the power of media to sway the way the public views issues. The intensity in which Hiram works to share the details of his life and uphold the persona he created for himself reminds me of the energy in which social media enthusiasts write and post narratives about their life journey to endorse a persona they desire.
The book had a great storyline that covered a variety of controversial issues. I discovered an underlying idea that there are power and purpose in self-discovery and introspection, but I thought there an equally strong message regarding humans as social beings and the importance of social relationships. At one point McDowell believed he was a loner and found energy in isolation, yet a time came when he lost his tolerance for being alone, and he yearned for human contact. It is ironic that at times Hiram depicted people as a source of extreme conflict in his life, but at the same time, he demonstrated his need for people to maintain his sanity.
I did not want to put this book down. Throughout the story, the drama evoked a range of emotions, including love, disgust, compassion, anger, and confusion. I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys the intellectual challenge of trying to understand the decisions and behaviors of humans. This book is appropriate for adult readers. I enjoyed this book immensely, so I rated the book a 4 out of 4 stars.
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