3 out of 4 stars
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Man Mission by Eytan Uliel is a coming of an age fiction novel. It is a story of adventure, self-discovery, family and the love of food.
When the main protagonist (the narrator) gets a call from Sam his college mate, he least expects something crazy. It is a call to adventure! Sam reminds him of a forgotten dream once discussed in college at a food fair. A fantasy to travel annually to exotic places, eat different foods with the added benefit of outdoor activities like hiking or kayaking. Life and work have become all but mechanical; Sam’s phone call could not have come at a better time. This is the birth of Man Mission. The two of them will team up with friends Alec and Daniel for the next fifteen years learning to grow in their understanding of what it means to be a man be it at work, in their marriages, through their challenges as they bond with each other on their annual trips.
The narrative is told in the first person from the narrator's point of view. The story drew me in right from the start. It is both a humorous and captivating tale that details travel and food as well as giving one insight into a man’s perspective of what it means to be a man. Although a work of fiction one would be forgiven for believing the tale to be real. The author Uliel graduated from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. He practised corporate law for years before taking up a career in investment banking, private equity, and oil and gas finance. The main protagonist seems loosely based on him. Being a global traveller and a food lover, his describes the man mission trips in a manner that the reader can see the places in their mind’s eye.
The 362-page book has fifteen chapters. Each chapter is introduced with two pages: one with an appropriate quote and bible verse and the other with an illustration of the map depicting each trip. The text is easy to read and styled with a paragraph foreshadowing each mission. The characters are both relatable and believable. The narrator is driven to be successful as a family man but can’t open up about his true feelings. Sam is sporty, responsible, not easily moved and ready to stay at a job and climb the ranks. Daniel is well organized and the voice of reason. Alec is a playboy and a drifter who matures with time.
Set in Australia, with journeys to countries such as New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Fiji to name but a few, Man Mission has a logically clear story. Whilst physical strength, ignoring one’s pain and being macho are some of society’s acceptance of what a man is, it is how one faces one’s life challenges that make the man.
What I liked most about the book was the words of Mr Takeda during Man Mission ii: Tokyo to Niigata, Japan. He said, “In Japan, men do not say how they feel. They do not know how to talk with women. Is it like this in your country?” I thought that the words made a lot of sense. I wondered how many men would readily admit it. I also enjoyed the funny rules that made the Man Mission charter. My favourite are number (7) Chafing obligatory and number (10) He who whines loudest wears the pink bracelet. It just showed that having no solution for chafing it was required and complaining made a man look like a girl.
What I didn’t like was downloading an e-pub version of the book that proved to be a monstrous 6482 pages long. It had so many blank pages that I feared that I would not read the book at all. I later had to download an e-book converter to convert it into a PDF version which was an acceptable 567 pages. It too had several blank pages and some with half the print. At least it was a workable book.
Book does contain some profanity. Erotic scenes happen behind closed doors and are left to the imagination of the reader. I also did not note any grammatical errors. Although it deserves 4 stars, I am rating it 3 out of 4 stars. I cut off 1 star for both e-pub and PDF versions of the book that were full of blanks as well as half print pages. I recommend the book to people interested in travel and adventure as well as ladies who are interested in how men think.
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