4 out of 4 stars
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Eytan Uliel’s novel, Man Mission, is a gripping story of the adventures of four guys, friends from a young age, and linked together through school and college who go on an adventure-filled vacation once a year. The experience must include sampling all the local dishes; however, distasteful they may seem to our four Australians and include a hard sporting activity which will tax them. They create a Man Mission Charter, which has other inviolable rules, one of which is the awarding of a pink plastic bracelet to any member exhibiting wimpish actions.
The protagonist is unnamed — although he is called many things, a wimp, dear cripple, dude — I like to think of him as Eytan. We hear Eytan’s philosophy and view of the world from the beginning, which is concerned with what is the right thing to do according to society. But as Eytan continually asks himself, why don’t I feel good if I am doing everything right.
The fifteen Man Mission adventures are written up in a relaxed and accessible style, and interlaced with various events which have happened on the home-front. This dovetailing of parts of the story is very well done and makes for a well-developed plot. The reader can see how the wives and families have been impacted as well as their husbands. I enjoyed other aspects of the presentation of the book, especially the maps, and I liked the humor of calling the three parts: Beginning, Middle, and End. Also, the cover was enticing.
Each Man Mission gets more exotic and challenging as the years go by, and the guys feel the need to top previous experiences. The descriptions of each different location: New Zealand, Japan, Australia, Fiji, Spain, Thailand, Korea, South Africa, Vietnam, Hawaii, Taiwan, Peru, and Iceland are spell-binding. These represent an impressive range of cultures in which the author not only brings to life the principal characters but many of the bit players from various countries. He points out to the reader some moments of bonding that take place in an instant of time, or so it seems. As with their guide Marco in Peru while observing the sunrise over Machu Picchu. Eytan realizes he and Marco have experienced similar things like divorce and missing their children, even though they are from separate countries and work different jobs altogether. This reader remembered many journeys and enjoyed the reminder of personal missions.
The story comprises a potent mix of boys being boys and men maturing, feeling pain, and realizing the sharing of feelings is a necessary part of the human condition. Eytan Uliel demonstrates that men benefit from crying, sharing, and hugging when life is grim. The men had role models - their fathers. But the world is changing and what worked for the dads, doesn’t necessarily work for the sons. Australians, perhaps more than most, need to present a masculine image to the world and believe they are macho to the core. Eytan Uliel is decisive about the book being a work of fiction, and perhaps the highest accolade of his writing is that it all seems so real. It’s called Man Mission, but it can apply to women as well. Even someone who recognizes the need intellectually for sharing feelings may be unable to reveal all emotionally.
I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars because we develop an incredible understanding of the four friends and their challenges as they mature. I do not rate it 3 out of 4 stars because it provides much food for thought. I found no errors and believe it to be professionally edited. Neither did I dislike anything. As with other books about the lives of men, there is much banter about male parts (junk), and there are some readers who might find this offensive. It would be unsuitable for young readers for the same reason. I recommend it to anyone interested in how we achieve redemption in this world.
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