4 out of 4 stars
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McDowell is a gripping book by William H. Coles based on the life of Dr. Hiriam McDowell at the peak of his career, through his fall, and ultimately ending with his redemption. While it was disturbing in the beginning, the author takes the reader on a journey of emotions from disparaging McDowell to ultimately cheering for his reunification with his family and society in general. Overall the book is well written, chapters are clearly identified and narration is provided by multiple characters to provide a complete picture for the reader. I would rate the book 4 out of 4 stars.
The first half of the book follows the renowned surgeon, McDowell, as he ventures to not only climb the world's highest peaks physically but also reaching even higher heights in his successful career. It also offers a glimpse into what is probably closer to reality for a large part of our world’s successful, driven professionals and the toll it takes on their families and relationships. Author Cole contrasts the relationship with McDowell’s current wife being strained at best with the love and compassion that he shows to his mistress in Nepal coupled with the desire to share his music passion with his son and financially support his daughter’s artistic aspirations. This contrast puts the reader in a state of love - hate with Hiriam. As he begins his fall from grace, it is easy to identify wrong turns he makes along with the misunderstandings that come from individuals with solution-only attitudes.
The second half of the book really takes the reader on a roller coaster of emotions as Hiriam adjusts to prison life and into his ultimate escape. Living as a fugitive on the road without the comforts that had been afforded by his successful career, brings the reader another opportunity to cheer getting what he deserved. However, Coles continues the process of thoroughly surprising as the journey McDowell takes is not only one of self discovery, but also of connectedness to his fellow man. As Hiriam learns to give and sacrifice for others, we are ready for his triumphal return to his former life to show how far he has come in his journey. But alas, the author brings in another great twist in the road at the end to provide a truly emotional experience for the reader.
All of the characters in McDowell's stages of life provided great insight and plot development. Along the main journey, the reader finds themselves drawn into the highs and lows of not only the maturing of his children, Sophie and Billie, but also the several side trips with those like the family in Montana and the saving of Willie's wife in New Orleans. This is an example of the great writing by William H. Coles.
While I had initial reservations with the beginning of the book from the harsh start, in the end I was left emotionally exhausted, yet empathetic to the characters and overall satisfied to know that even the worst of mankind can grow when placed in the right circumstances. I truly enjoyed the journey that Coles provided and I would recommend the book McDowell to any adults seeking to find hope in humanity.
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