Sunday, June 23, 2019

Book Review: 'The Spirit of Want' by William H. Coles (Illustrated by Betty Harper)

The Spirit of Want by William H. Coles
An exceptionally fine novel!

Utah author William H. Coles, MD is a retired Ophthalmologist whose medical career was internationally lauded for his expertise as an ophthalmic surgeon specializing in ocular injury repair and reconstruction, a professor and chairman at SUNY Buffalo School of Medicine, a Regent for The American College of Surgeons, president of the Association of University Professors in Ophthalmology, and lecturer on mechanistic biologic ophthalmic research and ophthalmic surgery internationally. Preparing for his career as a literary fiction writer Coles studied in more than 100 courses and workshops with more than seventy-five authors, editors, and teachers and created, a website with resources for fiction writers, illustrators, and avid fiction readers. He has published ten books - five novels, collections of short fiction and three books on the writing of fiction stories. He has also garnered honors for his participation in the arts – jazz piano, antique art, museums, and historic preservation.

THE SPIRIT OF WANT once again proves that Cole’s brilliant prose further demonstrates that he is an author whose name should be on every list of significant contemporary writers. William H. Coles blends his depth of knowledge about medicine with his extraordinary sensitivity to philosophy and the true meaning of life as it can be lived, abused, fractured, and redeemed.

The story is complex but the author elects to set the tone with a bit of background about the main character’s development in a very successful opening chapter that makes the subsequent novel lucid. ‘Luke Osbourne drove two and a half hours north of Atlanta to the lake facility of Atlanta Club to arrive after seven. Inside the clubhouse ballroom, more than two hundred guests, mostly couples, gathered in daisy-cluster conversation groups or sat at small round tables munching buffet-style dinner food served by waiters in white jackets and tuxedo pants. A layer of cigarette smoke hovered over the crowd dimming the lights of two giant, wedding-cake-tiered, crystal chandeliers. The mood was buoyant. Wine and cocktail glasses were raised high in congratulatory toasts as sweat beaded on the brows of men in tuxedos, and the women – many in off-the-shoulder, full-length gowns – clandestinely dabbed hankies and tissues to their underarms. These were the donors who had helped make the new Eye Institute possible, and A.J. MacMiel had made it happen by wooing donors and securing public and privates grants…’ This attention to detail accompanies each step forward in this fine tale.

The synopsis touches on the novel’s course – ‘A successful woman lawyer falls in love with a TV-evangelist accused of sexually molesting a child. She loses the case and while on appeal he escapes the country. She leaves family and new husband and child to follow him to Africa. She is faced with deep questions about who he really is and she returns in penury to try to rebuild her life and career only to discover the devastating effects of unrequited love.’ Coles touches on racism, legal issues, trial law, and many social issues in weaving this fascinating tale – and it unrolls naturally and with brilliance.

William H. Coles is most assuredly one of our finest American authors, an artist in line with Ian McEwan, Michael Chabon, Jeffrey Eugenides, Jonathan Franzen et al. Highly Recommended. 

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

Order it on Amazon today.
Two kings. Two princes. One queen. The true story of five aristocrats separated by time, culture, and circumstance -- all of them bound to the United States by accidents of history and left to hope for a tomorrow better than today. Prepare for a vision of the American Dream as few others have ever seen it.