4 out of 4 stars
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You might have heard it said that life is an adventure during which we face and must overcome all sorts of hurdles. Good and bad things happen to us; we laugh, we cry, we love, we lose. When I finished Man Mission, the latest book of Eytan Uliel, I felt as though I had just lived a life, a life filled with all the emotions and ups-and-downs that growing up brings.
In the book, we follow a group of four men, but mostly our protagonist, during the course of fifteen years or, more accurately, during the course of fifteen man-missions, annual trips that they take together, trying every time to surpass themselves and do something more difficult, more dangerous, more fitting to their man-mission.
Uliel describes the places they visit with great detail and vividness and it is as though we go on the trips with them (the excellent editing of the book adds to this feeling). It is very rare when an author writes about a group of close friends that he manages to make the reader feel like a part of the group. However, that is exactly how I felt while reading Man-Mission. Every time one of their trips came to an end, I felt like I knew all of them a little better, like we'd gotten closer. I found myself laughing at their jokes, getting excited about the ideas that they came up for their man-missions and feeling sad when something bad happened to them. Not just on their trips but in their lives as well. Because in-between their man-missions, life happens.
It is maybe the first time that I felt like I had an answer to the question 'what does it mean to be a man?' Our unnamed protagonist is, for me, an answer to that question; he grows, he makes good decisions and bad decisions; maybe more bad ones than good ones, but he recognizes his mistakes, he admits them and he tries to fix them. He's worried about where his life is going but that doesn't stop him from trying to do the best he can.
To be honest, when I started to read the book, I thought it would be interesting to see how much I would be able to connect, as a woman, with a group of men. I thought it would be hard, if not impossible, to relate to them. I was wrong and I'm incredibly glad that I was. It is rare that finishing a book, you end up with such an invaluable gift; the gift of being able to understand the 'other side', the male psyche, of being able to finally clear the misconceptions you previously had and that is why I believe this book would appeal to men and women of any age.
Man Mission gave me the gift of understanding that we are not that different, something that sounds simple but can take someone years and years to fully understand. Then again, when an author manages to present to you characters and lives in such a raw and honest way, he awakens in you feelings that are equally raw and honest. And, in the end, maybe without even realizing it, you end up with a better understanding of life and, quite probably, a big smile on your face. I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars.
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