4 out of 4 stars
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Man Mission: Four Men, Fifteen Years, One Epic Journey by Eytan Uliel follows four college friends who take an annual trip together. Although this may not sound terribly profound initially, from the very first page of the book the reader discovers that these trips are not typical vacations where one relaxes, sits around, and does archetypal vacation activities. Moreover, the major theme of the story is discovery of masculinity in a different era. The book chronicles the struggles of these men as they move from their formative college years into adulthood.
My favorite aspect of this book is that it is really two stories intermixed into one. The first encompasses each of the trips that the main character and his friends take to exotic locations. Beginning in New Zealand and Japan and stretching all the way to South America and north to Iceland, the detailed descriptions of these locations is brilliant and vibrant while also immersing the group (and the reader) into different cultures.
The second story is what happens between these trips: in short, life. Marriage, children, work, and typical day-to-day experiences are explained from the perspective of a man who is lost and who lacks self-identity. Oftentimes, the two stories seem separate, almost as if they were happening to two different people, but when these stories merge, we see major depth of character as well as major growth. The difference of perspective from the first trip to the last is immense.
Additionally, the main topic of the book is the meaning of masculinity and how that has changed in our modern age. Before, men were supposed to be hard, emotionless creatures who did not communicate their feelings. That has changed, and the author effectively communicated the hardships that have come with that. There are few books that I have found that tailor to men specifically in such a raw and powerful way. It spoke to me on a personal level because I am around the age of the group when they begin their Man Missions; I am currently experiencing many of the things that are talked about in the book, most notably getting married, starting a family, and beginning a career. While it begins more as a chronicle of the escapades of these friends, it becomes a coming-of-age novel for the modern young adult.
Overall, I rate Man Mission: Four Men, Fifteen Years, One Epic Journey 4 out of 4 stars; in fact, there is nothing that I would say negatively about this book at all. Eytan Uliel does an excellent job of creating characters and situations that are relatable, even if the locale are obscure and glamorous. The book was professionally edited; I did not find any typos or grammatical errors. Due to some profane language, mild erotic descriptions and the general existentialist nature of this book, this novel would be best suited for adults and older teens.
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