Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert
William H. Coles’ McDowell doses readers with literate medicine for the mind and soul, with a distinctive and engrossing work of dramatic fiction that craftily embeds a story of self-discovery within the world of the modern medical profession. It delves into the life and psyche of surgeon Hiram McDowell, a medical professional at the pinnacle of his success who dwells at the lowest points of morality.
From the story’s outset, readers will find they are immediately engrossed in the life of protagonist Dr. Hiram McDowell. He lives a dual existence in his world which teems, with wealth, opportunity and privilege. To the outside world he wears the facade of an ambitious humanitarian and expert in his field, but to those who know him more intimately he is morally flawed with only his own interests and needs at heart. Altogether, McDowell severely lacks in common human decency; he is crude to his family, ignores and openly cheats on his wife, looks only to serve his goals within his profession, revels in deceptiveness, steps on the toes of colleagues and misappropriated charitable funds. Moreover, the focus of the story is not just mainly on McDowell; it also brings into focus his family dynamic and the effects that his behavior therefore has on his family, particularly his two closest children.
Ultimately, he makes enemies out of those that once trusted him and perpetuates conflicts of self- esteem within those that attempt to love him. An almost seemingly hopeless cause, it piques the curiosity to see where things go for him. Eventually McDowell’s moral deficiencies become his complete downfall and he is consequently forced to live a life of poverty and solitude with his wealth, fame and power far removed from his life. Forced to live as an itinerant fugitive, and meanwhile, surviving by his wits, he gradually learns, to humble himself and become a more humane human for his survival among everyday folk.
Wholly, enjoyable McDowell was a richly realized and realistically detailed read that was character driven and moved at a balanced pace. Hiram McDowell turned out to be a strongly posed, despisable and simultaneously engrossing character whose ethical flaws catalyzed his journey to his self discovery. Overall, author William H. Coles writes with a literate aplomb that is both evocative and entertaining especially when it comes to detailing aspects of the medical profession and facets of human nature. My only contention about this read is the presence of some minor editing issues. But, issues aside, this was a worthy read and I do recommend it.