4 out of 4 stars
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Man Mission by Eytan Uliel is subtitled: Four men, fifteen years, one epic journey. In that one line, the entire basis of the book is summed up.
The principal character, unnamed and one of four university buddies, begins toying with the idea (while still a young student) of travelling to exotic places and experiencing the local culture and more especially the food!
It isn’t until they’ve all graduated and begun the long hard slog of establishing their careers though, that the idea eventually reaches fruition but with only two of the four venturing off the first time around. Slowly but surely, the annual trips evolve into better-planned and more challenging adventures. Friends are added or subtracted according to their varying commitments, and the Man Mission (as their yearly getaways come to be known) statement and rules are tweaked as they venture farther and farther afield.
We share in their journeys — both literal and personal — over a time span of fifteen years. They start out as relatively unfit gung-ho youngsters in their mid-twenties with not a care or a plan in the world, and end up as middle-aged, increasingly overweight and moderately fit husbands and fathers struggling to find their way in life.
The narrator begins each chapter (which is a new MM or Man Mission, to a new place) with a little teaser of the adventure they’re currently enjoying. He then goes back in time to describe how this new mission came about and how it is interwoven with their real lives. In the process, he also reveals his own vulnerability and uncertainty in many situations.
The author accomplishes this so well that you almost find yourself more anxious to read of their trials and tribulations with becoming responsible professionals, husbands and fathers in real time than you are looking forward to their next travel adventure! In both scenarios though, there are always hurts to deal with - physical injuries on many of the missions, and emotional traumas back home in their relationships, the loss of family members, the failure of businesses and retrenchments.
The book is exceptionally well edited, with only one minor error. This fact combined with a well-written and compelling story means that I have no hesitation in giving Man Mission a resounding 4 out of 4 stars. The author is also a travel blogger and his descriptions of each of the fifteen places they visit on their Man Missions are poetically descriptive and believable.
Despite the fact that it's a male-orientated novel and revolves around their battle to define their masculinity in an ever-changing world, I would not hesitate to recommend it to readers of both sexes. Those who enjoy travelling (armchair or otherwise!) and experiencing different cultures will absolutely love this novel. For women readers particularly, it is an intriguing insight into the male thought patterns to which we are seldom privy. So I would say, don’t be put off by the title, ladies! Read and enjoy. You might learn a thing or two.
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