4 out of 4 stars
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The Spirit of Want by William H. Coles: Life and People Are Not Black and White
I’ve seen Mr. Coles’ name often enough that I knew I had to read at least one of his books. I picked The Spirit of Want. I am glad I did. I will be reading more of his books.
The heroine of The Spirit of Want – Lucy – is extraordinarily beautiful and intelligent. She is also narcissistic, mean, unscrupulous, and ready to blame everyone but herself for her problems. She consistently rejects and even degrades those who love her (namely, her infinitely patient ex-husband and sister), even when they are pulling her out of a hole. She seeks out and attaches herself to those who reflect all of her negative qualities (a conman evangelist, a drunken and manipulative politico). She even abandons her child to pursue her adventures.
With a protagonist like Lucy, Mr. Coles could have left the book at the battle of good versus evil. He writes well, and the story is entertaining. If he had done so, we readers would have spent our time waiting for Lucy to get hers and then finding satisfaction when it happens. The book would have sold well.
But Mr. Coles resists that temptation. Real life is not black and white, good and evil. It is shades of gray. Even the worst cad has some good points or intentions, and even the most admirable person has faults and weaknesses. And all are capable of learning lessons and changing. Though I cannot give you details, in the end Lucy becomes someone we cannot categorize as good or evil, sympathetic or not. As a result, the ending is both enlivening and sad.
There is nothing wrong with books the purpose of which is simply to entertain. I read lots of them, and I have no more regret than I would after watching an entertaining TV show. But every now and then, I run across a book which not only entertains but leaves me with something to ponder for a while, and those are the books that stick with me. The Spirit of Want is one of those books.
Who is the book suited for? Anyone who views reading the way I do. Mr. Coles did not even fall back on sex or violence to make his book entertaining. I cannot find any faults and give the book 4 out of 4 stars.
The Spirit of Want
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