Life is all about who you are!
by William H. Coles
A character is what you build of yourself. Reputation is what people perceive of you. And the sad truth is that people can be so judgmental.
William H. Coles’ book, McDowell, tells the life story of a famous surgeon and skilled mountain climber named Hiram McDowell.
McDowell is a self-centered man, who cares for no one but his children. He holds key positions in medical organizations and in the government, as a Cabinet member.
The problem with McDowell is that he refuses to take responsibility for any error his organizations or projects commit. Instead, he would readily point the blame to someone else. Even when he’s charged for scientific misconduct in his own laboratory, he washes his hands off it. And as for his mountaineering activity, McDowell boasts of having scaled the highest peak in the world.
To describe his character, one of McDowell’s colleague in the medical profession says,
“…he’s one cold son of a bitch, arrogant and stubborn.”
Just as when he enjoys the peak of his career, Hiram McDowell’s life suddenly turns around. His grandson commits a scandal, including a failed suicide attempt that eventually leads to his mysterious death. Hiram is blamed for the boy’s death, resulting in his incarceration. From this point of the plot, readers are led into another chapter in Hiram’s life journey. Will the lead character pull it through or not?
Hiram McDowell may be a fictional character. But, whether we accept it or not, he represents many real people in the real world. Many of us in this materialistic society can be full of themselves, where fame and glory are the only things that matter. They would do anything and everything to reach the top of who they want to be.
At first, I was wondering why the author gives ample details on Hiram McDowell’s mountain climbing activity when it seems far from the career he’s pursuing. I initially found it irrelevant. But when I put all the pieces of the plot together, I realized that his mountain climbing activity is an allegory – that Hiram is a social climber.
McDowell, the book, sends out at least two important lessons that humanity can learn from. That, while it’s not bad to chase your dreams, it can be lonely up there. No matter how high the pedestal you put yourself on, there is a stage in your life, where you must come down. And, the people who you may have hurt and stepped upon in going up will likely deride you on your way down. It is in this stage that your life is most vulnerable. People can be so judgmental and unkind. And if you are a celebrity like Hiram, the media is always after you, haunting you for all eternity.
On the other hand, no matter how despicable you perceive the person next to you can be, he’s still human. McDowell, sort of, encourages us to be open and considerate to the person around us. Oftentimes, we tend to be opinionated particularly if we see a pattern of wrongdoings in someone. McDowell teaches us to be objective at looking at things. For we, too, are not perfect. We do not and cannot know what’s running in another person’s head and how his circumstances affect his inner being. Therefore, each of us must learn to look deeper into the (present) character of the person, and not rely on the (past) reputation he projected of himself while he was on top. After all, at the end of the day, life is not all about being on top or bottom. It’s about knowing – or rediscovering – who you are.
Overall, I give McDowell a rating of 4 out of 5 stars. Although I commend the author’s creativity in writing, I initially find the first few chapters dragging in pace. And perhaps it’s the drag that toned down my excitement for the story. But thankfully, I found out towards the end that Coles intentionally did it. The details he made of Hiram’s movement give light to how his biography should be written.
William Coles is one author whose works are worth reading. I recommend McDowell to readers of any age group. Beginner writers can even learn a lot from Coles’ style.