4 out of 4 stars
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By Eytan Uliel
Four Stars Out of Four
Some may approach this book as a travelogue, as indeed the author explores many places of exotic beauty. But to me this story was more an exploration of motivation and growth. Spanning fifteen years, Uliel and his three pals spend one week per year having adventures and bonding experiences. It’s not enough just to visit and enjoy these locations, but each year some added fillip of challenge is added: ice climbing in Iceland, kayaking in Thailand, cross-country biking in South Korea and so on.
Much of the story, however, takes place in between these excursions. We see Uliel fall in love and raise a family, question his worth at a time-consuming job, and stray from the fold as pressure builds. An insightful narrator, Uliel skillfully explores the tensions and changes of an evolving relationship and the stresses of demanding work. We learn much about how men react to change and how they are changed. The stories of the Man Missions themselves are exciting and grand, motivating me to want to visit some of the places he describes, yet my main takeaway from this book is how these four men all experienced so many changes in their lives, relationships, and careers and muddled through them as best they could.
Man Mission was easy to read and kept me engaged throughout – so much so that upon finishing it, I immediately started reading Uliel’s other book, Head Waggling in India, and found it to be enjoyable as well. But Man Mission is so much more than just an engaging read – there are genuine insights into human behavior and personal growth. Take any group of male friends and follow them for fifteen years and one would find interesting stories about their life’s travails but put these friends together one week a year for fifteen years on an exciting adventure and their personalities really come to fore. On each Man Mission, one participant is voted the biggest whiner and must wear the pink bracelet of shame, although that bracelet sometimes changes hands as the mission develops.
In short, this is a book that even an avid reader of fiction like me could savor and enjoy. The descriptive language of the missions is wonderfully crafted, and the relationship problems made me cringe with shared pain. I didn’t know what to expect when I began reading Man Mission, but I certainly am happy I did.
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