4 out of 4 stars
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Man - A being in search of meaning. -Plato
Nearly all youths experience a feeling of wanderlust at some point in their lives. This need to experience the unknown and to live freely can be considered a driving force for many. Some people manage to explore that through spiritual self-discovery, while others wait until life itself grabs them by the ears and drags them outside. For our main characters, a group of men, explore this part of their lives through week-long journeys wherever they dare go. Beginning in their late twenties and extending up to fifteen years, these men experience several adventures from New Zealand to South Africa to Peru. All the while they face the terms of growing up with families, careers and like many, self-identity. Man-Mission by Ethan Ulied is a book filled to the brim with adventure and humor, but it is also a story of growth and important development anyone can appreciate.
Firstly, allow me to say that this story has so much heart. These characters have heart. Their problems have heart and by offering me theirs I found my heart tethered to theirs. It is a feeling readers crave for but are rarely accomplished by writers. As such, this reason is only the beginning of my growing respect for Uliel's story.
Normally, I would organize my review so that the positives and negatives are present. By doing so I offering up an unbiased view on its most notable character traits. Or at least, that is my intent. However, for Man-Mission's sake, I can not overtly say that there is much to complain about. The emotional connection alone was enough to rock me to my core. For a connection so deep is a feeling readers hunger and ache for and Man-Mission excels in its delivery. The reasons why the story succeeds in such vulnerability are the characters, the style of writing, and of course, blunt honesty from the perspective of a man.
The characters are mostly the narrators three friends: Daniel, Sam, and Alec. Their characterizations, I believe, represents the importance of men solidarity during trying times. So often are men told to be men; to suck it up and bury it for the sake of their dignity if nothing else. Yet, this story provided a softer look into the consequence of such dangerous thinking. Different though they are, they parallel each other struggles with different winnings. It's comforting to find solid ground amongst friends and knows that no one is above suffering. No one is above mistake and no one is beyond redemption.
In addition, the story is presented in a format like a journal with the exception of the "dear diary," starter. I can not think of a more open format. It felt like the narrator was transparent about every blemish and glamour in his life. Yet, for a character I grew to know so intimately, the story left him nameless. Still, I wept for him inside and hated him at others, but I'm glad that he is nameless. His life and choices defined him, not his name.
As for the style, I'd say it flows like the river our characters kayak down. It won't be long before the reader becomes invested in their lives and forget what page they're on. Grammar errors are practically none existent. I would recommend this story to young and older adults who feel out of place in their lives. Or worse, like their fate has already been predetermined. It's entertaining enough to hold attention and suspenseful enough to become addictive. Above all else, it's heartfelt and offering invaluable life lessons. I rate this book a well deserved 4 out of 4 stars.
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