4 out of 4 stars
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Man Mission by Eytan Uliel is a story of a group of friends who decide to get together every year for what they call a Man Mission. It's a trip somewhere in the world where they can put themselves to the test choosing their own rules. Meanwhile, their lives go on, but their families and their jobs seem increasingly in contrast with their Man Missions.
This novel is centered around fifteen trips told in the first person by one of the friends who committed to what they called Man Missions, but it's far more than a travelogue. Those trips are used to develop a lot of introspection in which the narrator tells about his inner journey. For the protagonists, the goal is to be men, but what does that really mean?
Through the narrator, Eytan Uliel describes the Man Missions alternating bits of them with bits of the protagonists' everyday lives with their relationships and their jobs. The events are told out of sequence, and that stresses what quickly becomes a contrast between those parts of their lives.
The Man Missions become slightly repetitive, but there aren't many variations of hiking, biking, and kayaking stories, especially when each story is told in just a few pages. I think that Eytan Uliel did a good job at compensating those repetitions with different settings, different problems, and especially encounters with different types of people. Those encounters offer food for thought because they allow the protagonists to compare their lives with those of people who live in different countries with different cultures.
At the beginning, this novel can seem superficial, with friends being silly during a trip where things don't always go the way they wanted. There are hilarious moments, and the Man Missions are occasions for the protagonists to taunt each other mercilessly. However, under all the silliness and the machismo there are profound issues. You can see the details of the narrator's life with its changes and its problems. During the Man Missions he feels satisfaction even when he and his friends have to face unpredicted events because it's what they chose to do. On the contrary, during his normal life he does what he's supposed to do, and that becomes a burden. He grew up when there was a certain traditional idea of what being a man meant. Today that's far from enough for young men to have a full life.
Man Mission is an emotional rollercoaster and a story of lessons learned the hard way. I found it very interesting for the introspection developed through the protagonists' lives, and it's professionally edited. For these reasons, my rating is 4 out of 4 stars. Note that profanities are abundant throughout the novel, and there are several sexual references, so it's suitable for adults. If you feel your life looks like a cage or your want to make important changes to your life, this novel might give you some significant clues.
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