4 out of 4 stars
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Man Mission: Four men, fifteen years, one epic journey is a memoir written by Eytan Uliel of fifteen years of his life. Does the journey end there? I hope not.
Why do men need to prove themselves? Psychologists might have the answer. What is clear from this book is that they do. It seems they need the rush of adrenaline when they overcome yet another obstacle. Writing the book must have been another challenge for Eytan Uliel because he does not share only descriptions of the exotic places or the pleasant, extreme or nasty moments of the trips, but also the experiences he has before, during, and after the expeditions in his personal and professional life.
What in many young men (and not only) remains as a wild dream of youth, materializes in this case when Sam, Eytan’s pal from student times, approaches him with the proposition to go for it. So hiking in New Zeeland starts the series of adventures, one each year, the team extended to four participants with Daniel and Alec joining in. Code and rules are established, just like teenagers would do. The adventure thirsty reader is taken to Korea, Japan, Spain, Peru, Iceland, and more, in cycling, hiking or kayaking expeditions.
While not on the journey, the rest of the men’s lives happen, in such as dating, marrying, children, job promotions, job loss, depression and shrink analyses, divorce, and reconciliation, new love.
While with each of the completed adventure the protagonists prove themselves to be "the men", I had a feeling I was watching one or a series of Woody Allan’s films. Doubt and uncertainty, self-pity and need not to lose face poison the joy of accomplishing such extraordinary tasks. The burden of feeling judged and of comparing to the friends at his disadvantage weigh heavy in the balance. I suppose the reader will choose, according to their disposition, the full or the empty part of the glass.
So, on the positive side, all the adventures are successful, children are growing relatively happy, there are empathy and support within the friends’ group and finally, there is acceptance and peace in the life of the protagonist. If anyone, man or belonging to the fair gender, might be jealous of the exploits that they only get to read about, the psychological turmoil happening under the serene surface of the characters will make such less inclined to resenting or envying them. On the contrary, they will be happy for the way things smooth out in the end, although this reader cannot help but wonder...
Among the readership of this book, I would count people enjoying vicarious travels but also those reflecting on their life course and the whys and wherefores of various events therein. Would women enjoy the book? This one has and I am sure many others will, some trying to solve the mystery of men bonding, other taking sides in the disputes the characters have with their spouses.
The style is natural and adequate with every situation, there are no errors or mistakes as much as I could gather, so I cannot but grant the book four out of four stars even if a bit sad about the tame ending.
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