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Review: ‘Unfinished Business’ by Lee Kravitz

Review: ‘Unfinished Business’ by Lee Kravitz post image

Title: Unfinished Business: One Man’s Extraordinary Year of Trying to Do the Right Things
Author: Lee Kravitz
Genre: Memoir
Year: 2011
Acquired: From the publisher for review as part of a TLC Book Tour
Rating: ★★½☆☆

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.

TLC Book TourOther Reviews: Patricia’s WisdomSilver and GraceSeaside Book NookLife in ReviewMockingbird Hill CottageColloquium |

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!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Care June 8, 2011, 6:15 am

    oh my! My first thought upon seeing the title of this post was “Lenny Kravitz wrote a business bool?” oops.
    I am memoired out at the moment. Have a great day!

  • Care June 8, 2011, 6:15 am

    business BOOK! I can’t type anymore.

    • Kim June 8, 2011, 6:16 am

      As I was thinking about this book, I was CONSTANTLY thinking the author’s name was “Lenny Kravitz” and then I would catch myself. So silly!

  • Amy June 8, 2011, 6:21 am

    Sounds interesting but I think I would also be disappointed in the end. There should have been something less rosy! And, like you, I think he should have tried harder from the sounds of it with the library. People do stuff like that, so clearly not completely unrealistic!

    • Kim June 9, 2011, 8:14 pm

      Maybe his experience was all good; I don’t want to discount that and say he should have made up hardship or something. But it did seem a little simple, or like maybe he skipped over difficulties… I guess I just didn’t totally buy it 🙁

  • bermudaonion (Kathy) June 8, 2011, 12:19 pm

    Did he try to find another job or just spend the year trying to right old wrongs? I’m not sure this is for me either.

    • Kim June 9, 2011, 8:15 pm

      I think he just spent the year correcting his past mistakes. Part of why he’d not communicated was because he worked too much, so not having the job was a big part of it for him.

  • Patricia June 8, 2011, 1:05 pm

    I very much liked this book but then I am of an age!! and let’s face it those baby boomers need a lot of direction in their retirement years because they have just followed directions well and have not been very creative in their path finding. It made them money and a decent retirement.

    I think there was a lack of conflict because this fellow was needing to learn to deal with his emotions and his personal self…men don’t share that well in this particular age group…His visits to Father Tony and the monastic fellow were all working at plugging him into his own self…something that younger men need to figure out earlier in life currently. The conflict was masked.
    I do think a great many 50-60 year old men will truly resonate with this fellow and his story because they need to do the same.
    Thanks for the shout out…I put your pingback up on my site.

    • Kim June 9, 2011, 8:16 pm

      You make some great points Patricia! There could have just been some emotional resistance because he wasn’t inclined to be too emotional about it or something. I do think the book will be good for some people, it just wasn’t quite the right memoir for me to connect with 🙂

  • Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours June 8, 2011, 2:19 pm

    Ha! The idea of you as a “grouchy reader” would never have occurred to me. LOL

    I’m sorry this book didn’t turn out to be a good fit for you, but thanks for being on the tour regardless.

    • Kim June 9, 2011, 8:17 pm

      I always start to think I’m grouchy after I write a review then go to see what other people have to say and they liked a book 🙂 Most of the other reviews on the tour were positive, so it might just be me!

  • Vasilly June 8, 2011, 7:52 pm

    I kept thinking of Lenny Kravitz too while reading your review! 😉 You made a lot of great points about why this book missed the mark for you. I don’t need to read this book since the points you brought up, turned me off to it. Great review, Kim!

    • Kim June 9, 2011, 8:17 pm

      Like I said to Care, I was ALWAYS thinking Lenny Kravtiz when I went to talk about the book. Names!

  • Dawn - She Is Too Fond of Books June 8, 2011, 7:57 pm

    I love a good personal memoir, but I’m a bit burned out on the “my year of doing x” memoirs. Did you sense that the author grew/learned anything during this time, or was it a self-pat on the back for doing the right thing by reconnecting and making amends?

    • Kim June 9, 2011, 8:18 pm

      I might be reaching my saturation point with “a year doing X” memoirs too. I love them, but it’s really tricky to not be gimmicky… especially if there’s a book deal about it before the year starts! Not that I think there was in this case, just a general comment.