Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Unfinished Business

Unfinished Business: One Man's Extraordinary Year of Trying to Do the Right Things

I received Unfinished Business as part of's Early Reviewer program, lucky me!

The premise of this book appealed to me. Kravitz lost his job and realized that he had some things in his life he'd neglected, or wish he'd done, or wish he'd done differently, so he took a year to set about rectifying what he could.

He started out talking about his Jewish perspective about making amends...

"On Yom Kippur, god forgave us for all the vows we wouldn't fulfill in the coming year. But he only gave us absolution for the vows that involved him. It was much harder to atone for the sins we committed against other people. We had to ask the person to fogive us. If he chose not to, the wrong would persist. So you had to be precise - and persuasive - in your amends.

"In Judaism, as in the other religious traditions, sincerity is what counts most. You must cease to commit a sin, really regret it, and resolve not to do it again...Did I have that much courage and discipline? That was what I wondered as I compiled my list of unfinished business."

He proceeded on his quest, deciding on 10 things that he needed to attempt. The first one (and probably my favorite), is that he decided to reconnect with his Aunt Fern, a person who really believed in him when he'd been younger, but whom he hadn't seen in 15 years because she was institutionalized for schizophrenia. As with all of his attempts in the book, he visits her with trepidation, wondering if it will be bad for her to see him (which is what his family had been circulating, that it would be bad for her to see anyone). Would he make the situation worse by visiting? And, again, as with all of his attempts, they turned out much better than he'd thought they would, even though sometimes they were hard and had some things to work through.

He connects with someone and tells him how sorry he is for his daughter's death, attempts to let go of a grudge he'd held for years and years, repays a monetary debt, reconnects with a mentor.

There were a few chapters that seemed a bit, maybe, preachy? He reconnected with an old friend from high school who had since become a Greek Orthodox monk and he attempted to find out what lead his friend on this strict religious path. He also connected with an old teacher, who also had a very strong faith. While Kravitz was wrestling with his own faith while finding out about their beliefs and lives, it seemed less as though he was making amends or dealing with unfinished business than going to a class. So maybe not preachy, maybe didactic.

Kravitz comes away from this year-long exercise with a greater appreciation for the people in his life, for calm, quiet moments, for friends, as well as for just dealing with his unfinished business. I appreciated being able to share in his journey through this book.

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