4 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
McDowell by William H. Coles is a multi-layered construct of ethical belief systems, agendas and a glimpse of human avarice as a by-product of our society. The main character McDowell and other characters are developed by seeing them initially in their somewhat conscience-less states. There is an underlying theme that humans often lose sight of what to strive for in order to make life worthwhile for themselves and others. It is McDowell’s process of self-actualization over a lifetime. The novel questions the place of religion in modern man’s striving to “become”. It pays homage to the most simple of teachings from Matthew 7:12 in the admonition that a lay preacher who befriends him suggests: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It asks how far we have really progressed in our so-called advanced civilization, or does it all simply come down to love, hope, and charity.
In a stunning moment of reflection by one of the characters, the novel engages the reader to question that if a change in our society is really possible, why is there still a pervasive tolerance of inaction in response to the brutality of innocents. In this novel, this reflects not only children but the degradation of women and humans in general. The concept of euthanasia / assisted suicide in medicine is discussed via McDowell’s dilemma – is it a concept of convenience or an ethical necessity?
McDowell begins to seek meaning from his initial state of obliviousness after escaping from his self-proclaimed “ruined” life. He decides to read a text by the philosopher Kant in a remote Montana bookstore. He is prevented from purchasing the book by Maud the bookshop owner, who appears to be a sort of literary conscience/guide on his road to self-discovery. She simply says no to his purchase of the book. She tells him without preamble, “You’re out of control. So wedded to power you can’t think straight…you don’t have anything of value inside, anything that might fill you with joy at living.”
Maud and her family, consisting of her virtually silent husband Pops, and disabled daughter Selena befriend McDowell. Maud reviews McDowell’s memoir at his request. She bluntly tells him that he is a fatalist, taking no responsibility for his life without insight into “… who or what you were.” She further tells him to think about who he is without emotions clouding truths. McDowell has used others to ruthlessly ascend to power and wealth as a pre-eminent surgeon. Through his association with this family and others in his travels, he begins to gain entrance for the first time into “…the life force of common awareness…” For the first time, he dreamt “…without fear, needs, hates or resentments.”
In his journey to an epiphany, the lives of McDowell’s family are elucidated. There is tragedy and beauty as their lives are affected by McDowell’s interventions and actions. This book is a tribute to the resilience of the human spirit. As McDowell so aptly notes: “Its society and culture where we find ourselves immersed in the conscious time we’re given as humans during life. We make our heaven and hell by how we influence the humanity we live in. How we integrate. How we build to make it better...my life is getting better now.” I found this book, its characters, and premise, to be extraordinarily thought- provoking. I rate this book 4 out of 4 and highly recommend it for its characterizations and theme content.
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon | on iTunes | on Smashwords
Like Ms-G's review? Post a comment saying so!