4 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
Eytan Uliel’s Man Mission is both poignant as it is enthralling. This thought-provoking novel follows four college friends from Australia that forge a tradition of week-long getaways to foreign lands in efforts to rejuvenate both the mind and spirit. Through fifteen years, the groups’ travels help them discover valuable lessons on life, love, and family that redefine the essence of being a man in postmodern society.
Uliel’s compelling and humorous writing is the driving force behind Man Mission. Like entries in a travelogue, the group partakes in trips that are richly detailed and full of memorable moments that would have readers entertained. Examples include the group getting involved with drug dealers in New Zealand, to be stoned on kava shots in Fiji, to uncomfortable (yet hilarious) conversations with locals in Taiwanese hot springs. Every chapter ends on a recap of each journey (complete with details of the country, location, distance, and injuries) that make nice additions to the overall narrative. Some of the adventures may not attract readers’ attention as the ones previously mentioned, but Uliel’s writing is enjoyable enough to keep it from being a tedious affair.
While the adventures are engrossing, the real journey is the personal growth of the group, arguably the strength of Man Mission. It is established in the beginning that the group has a mutual (yet limited) understanding of what constitutes success: get married, have children, and establish a reputable career. These ideals are reflected by the groups’ attitudes in earlier travels by their condemnation to signs of weakness and resound celebration for acts of physical feats and prowess. As they grow older, the group faces varying personal issues and heartbreaks that lead to permanent changes in each person’s outlook on life. By incorporating real-life situations seamlessly into his story: the death of a family member, losing a lucrative job, divorce; Uliel prevents it from being derivative. Rather, Uliel’s characters are sincere in their actions and have understandable motivations that attribute to the groups’ relatability.
It is worth emphasizing the importance of Man Mission being told through the male perspective. Through Uliel’s understated and yet beautiful approach to the modern struggles that the group endures, the story examines the traditional conventions that represented men for years. Uliel’s deconstructing of male stereotypes was handled in a way that was both candid and of good taste. It was refreshing for male characters to convey their intimate failures and fears, which made the emotional payoff for the group greatly satisfying.
I rate Man Mission a 4 out of 4. A marvelous novel that expertly weaves the story of a brotherhood that grows stronger in their bond through the challenges faced as they travel around the world. Recommended for readers who enjoy adventure-laden or travel literature, as well as fans of realist narratives and character-driven stories.
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon | on iTunes