4 out of 4 stars
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When I read the description on Man Mission by Eytan Uliel, I was like, 'yeah, right!' You see, I am not one to glamorize orgies and debauchery, and setting loose four young men in exotic places around the globe conjured such images. I will not spoil your reading experience by confirming or refuting the orgies angle. All I can say in summary is, Man Mission is a novel that defies the status quo.
It is universally accepted that women are the gifted ones in maintaining friendship groups in which they share their challenges and frustrations heart-to-heart. Man Mission challenges this perception as we follow four men naturally developing a fun-filled social support system, over a decade and a half.
The man mission concept was hatched by two young men in a food fair at the university. Its primary idea was to vacation in diverse exotic places across the world every year, to both eat and do something outdoorsy. A charter of the desirable 'manly' behavior on these trips was later effected.
The concept developed into a consistent annual getaway by four Australian friends. Their ego-adrenaline combination saw them pull the craziest of stunts over a span of fifteen years in destinations ranging from their motherland to the Orient, America, Africa, and many places in between.
The men became each other's keepers during the intervening storms of life in their changing life status - from youth to middle age. Read the book and decide for yourself if this epic journey helps the four men shun bottling up issues known to make menfolk unhappy and resentful.
This book is a natural, happy read, filled with the men's friendly banter, as they try being macho. They indeed had a pink bracelet for the person exhibiting the most 'unmacho-like' behavior. This lent normalcy to the plot as we saw the men in their true colors akin to men in everyday life. The characters were well developed and relatable.
That the author is well-traveled, well-read, and well 'movied' seeps through his engaging narration and hilarious descriptions. He gets the characters acting out exciting fun facts about the various exotic locations visited. An example is one elephant's macho display as the cowering macho men appeared helpless in the wild! What an ingenious way of communicating to readers strange facts about different places!
Each chapter deals with one location's man mission. It begins with both a literary and bible quote, pointing to what to expect in the chapter. The author alternates narration between activities on the current mission, and other events in the men's individual lives, during the preceding year. This medley spices up the narration and helps 'un-abruptly' change gear when things get intense. It's an effective way of updating the reader, while moving the plot forward.
Writing in the first-person perspective of one of the characters, the author uses funny similes and metaphors, coupled with tongue-in-cheek humor to keep the reader captivatingly entertained. The men's folly and shortsightedness, often resulting in laugh-out-loud mishaps, adds more flavor to the mood. Consider the example of these die-hard meat-lovers ordering'iced-noodles' in a freezing locale, because they could not decipher the menu and merely pointed at one item!
Without a doubt, I immensely enjoyed this book. I didn't come across even a single error – unless you think the one instance where an exclamation mark should have replaced a full stop, is a punctuation error!
The only thing I didn't appreciate was that at some point, the leading protagonist's intense introspection went on and on. I severally wanted to shout, 'alright I get it, can we move on already?' This, however, is a personal preference and will not stop me from rating Man Mission 4 out of 4 stars.
Anyone looking for a challenging and unique vacation destination will get some ideas from this book. I also recommend it to everyone interested in a fun read with some intense introspection. Regrettably though, there is a good amount of cussing involved.
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