Title: Unfinished Business: One Man’s Extraordinary Year of Trying to Do the Right Things
Author: Lee Kravitz
Acquired: From the publisher for review as part of a TLC Book Tour
One Sentence Summary: After getting laid off from his job, workaholic journalist Lee Kravtiz decides to spend a year reconnecting with his past and the people he wronged along the way.
One Sentence Review: A year of dealing with unfinished business should have conflict, yet this memoir felt a little too rosy to me.
Why I Read It: I’m curious about memoirs where people make a conscious decision to change their life, so this seemed like it could be up my alley.
Long Review: There was a moment in the introduction of Unfinished Business where I got the sense that I might not be quite the right audience for this particular memoir. In the opening, author Gail Sheehy writes, “In our First Adulthood, the years between eighteen and fifty, the passages are quite predictable,” and goes through a litany of the Things We Are Supposed to Do. I’ve been reading so much lately about how things for young adults today are decidedly unpredictable, that one sentence was enough to make me wonder if I would be able to connect to this memoir at all.
In Unfinished Business, former journalist Lee Kravtiz writes about the year he spent taking stock of his life after losing his job at a major American news magazine. After being laid off, Kravitz fell into a funk, wondering what it all had been for if not for his career.
While sorting through a few old boxes of momentos, Kravitz realizes how many pieces of unfinished business he’s left behind and decides to spend a year trying to right his past wrongs. The indiscretions range from not repaying a $600 loan from just after college to a promise to fill a library of books in Kenya. Through the year, Kravitz comes to realize most of his unfinished business came from missing opportunities to connect with others that he forfeited for the sake of work.
While I really like the concept of this story, the execution of it felt a bit simplistic. Throughout, Kravitz’s attempts to reconnect all just seemed too easy. There’s a lack of conflict in the whole thing; no one ever seems upset, and Kravitz doesn’t seem to experience any setbacks to having this fulfilling and life-affirming year.
There’s only one goal that seems to give him trouble — the library in Kenya. But instead of truly acknowledging the difficulty of that task and then actually trying to do it anyway (really completing his unfinished business), Kravitz glosses over it, citing a lesson learned about making promises he can actually accomplish and mailing one box of books to the small library at the suggestion of his daughter. I found that really off-putting.
All that negativity aside, Unfinished Business isn’t without good moments. There are lessons to be learned from Kravitz’s journey to connect rather than compete with others, and some pithy pieces of advice about working on our own unfinished business, for example:
- “There are acts and non-acts that prosecute you from within.”
- “If I had learned anything on my journeys to complete my unfinished business, it was that reaching out transforms you. Every time I extended myself to someone else, something good happened — and I became a happier person.”
- “Love takes work. It demands that you put yourself in the shoes of another person- and understand where that person is coming from – before you speak or act.”
There are also some quite funny stories where Kravitz isn’t afraid of making himself look silly. In a chapter about connecting with a spiritual past, Kravtiz writes about how he and two college friends convinced their university to let them do an independent study on Transcendental Meditation, which eventually devolved into dropping acid at a cabin in Amish country. The story genuinely made me laugh, and made me wish there were more such moments in the book.
On the whole though, this book missed the mark for me. I felt outside the target audience for the message to really sink in, and I was disappointed with the rosy spin Kravtiz seemed to put on issues that seemed like they should have raised more conflict. However, less grouchy readers (or readers just better able to relate to Kravitz) may be perfectly content with the story.
If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks!