4 out of 4 stars
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In McDowell, William H. Coles tells the story of Hiram McDowell and his family. McDowell is a complex character introduced to the reader as an arrogant surgeon, driven by ambition. He appears to only care about himself and his career. In addition to being a successful surgeon, Hiram was elected President of the International College of Surgeons and created a charity to fund a hospital he built in Nepal.
In the first half of the book, Hiram McDowell is a very unlikeable character. McDowell’s relationships with others appear to be self-serving. His relationships with women show lack of respect and objectification. However, Hiram’s one redeeming quality referenced throughout the novel is his love for his children. He contacts his children regularly and looks out for their best interests. He helps his daughter, Sophie, get funding for her documentary and supports his son, Billie, with his musical ambitions. He also supports his children financially and keeps in touch with them regularly.
McDowell’s life and career take a downward spiral when his grandson, Jeremy, goes on a killing spree and makes a failed attempt at suicide. When Hiram is alone in his grandson’s hospital room, Jeremy dies under questionable circumstances. Hiram is convicted of second-degree murder and sentence to prison. He eventually manages to escape prison and lives life on the run. As Hiram is forced to hide his identity and travel alone, he has time for self-reflection and begins writing his memoir. His goal is for people to understand his actions.
Through the course of his travels, McDowell meets interesting characters who help him learn more about himself and don’t judge him or his actions. The author weaves these new characters in and out of the main storyline. Each interaction moves the story forward in showing McDowell’s willingness to help others instead of his selfish motives in the first half of the novel. Hiram’s relationships with women improve as he meets and is influenced by new female characters on his journey. He discusses his life with them and values their opinions.
McDowell is a compelling story about moral and ethical values. The story touches upon important topics, including gun control, mass shootings, suicide, euthanasia and redemption. The characters are complex and realistic. The book is well-written and difficult to put down. I would recommend this book to anyone that enjoys epic novels, strong characters and philosophical discussions. The author creates a powerful character in Hiram McDowell and takes him through an epic journey. I give this book 4 out of 4 stars for the complexity of the story and the strength of the characters.
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