Book Review: Man Mission by Eytan Uliel – 4 stars

This is the first time I’ve ever been given an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of a book to promote as part of a blog tour (thank you, Sage!) and I’m really glad that this was my first choice!

Man Mission, is Eytan Uriel’s true coming of age story told through a recounting of fifteen years of ‘guy trips’ that he took with his three best friends. Not only is the book well-written (you’ll be in awe of the descriptions of the amazing places to which these guys travelled) it’s emotional and thought-provoking.

Man Mission

We meet Eytan, Sam, Alec and Dan in college…they are embarking on their independent lives and exhibiting all the signs of early 20s young men; they are full with both hope and hubris. Over the next fifteen years, we get 15 chapters (one representing each year of the Man Mission trips they take) interspersed with stories surrounding the trips: they find careers, get married, have children and find their own struggles.

The trips that the 4 men take are as ridiculous as they are amazing: they are completely unprepared to do things like arduous hikes in New Zealand and sail in Thailand but the descriptions of their tenacity and the landscapes around them are incredible!

More incredible, perhaps, is the fifteen-year bond that develops between the 4 men and the insights into their hearts and minds that we are given by Uliel. As a woman, wife and ‘boy mom,’ I was fascinated by the men’s camaraderie, behaviors and perceptions of themselves. I learned a tremendous amount about the pressure that men place on themselves and their notions of what it means to be a man.

Along the path, I was often frustrated by the chauvinistic, chest-thumping activities the men engaged in but appreciated Uliel’s willingness to portray himself and his friends in an unvarnished way. The story, with all of the men’s sensitivities and flaws, rang true in a way that kept me reading to the end.

I found myself rejoicing in each man’s triumph’s and cringing at each man’s struggles. There were certainly triggers for me around some of the heartless, misogynistic behavior that is portrayed in the book but I considered it a fair trade-off for a glimpse inside these men’s hearts and minds.

The framework of a fifteen-year tradition was a great construct for allowing the reader to watch these 4 men grow up. I was especially taken with Uliel’s tongue-in-cheek ‘statistics’ at the end of every chapter. For example, these from Spain where one of the men discovers that his father has passed while he is on the trip:

MM VII Vital Statistics

Country: Spain

Location: White Villages of Andalusia

Mode of transport: Hiking

Distance covered: Sixty miles

Tine taken: Six days

Accommodation: Guesthouses

Injuries sustained: Sunburn and grief

If you have a love of travelogues and memoirs, this book provides the best of both worlds. As I mentioned, I read an ARC and it did not include any photos but if the final copy includes any photos of these ‘blokes’ and their adventures, I can only imagine that those would be great fun as well!

I highly recommend Uriel’s debut, Man Mission, for its look at the world: the ones both beyond our gaze and behind our eyes!

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