Thursday, June 10, 2010

Unfinished Business by Lee Kravitz

I have very mixed feelings about Unfinished Business . Lee Kravitz' memoir is subtitled One Man's Extraordinary Year of Trying to Do The Right Things. The year was extraordinary for him, and parts of the book were moving. However, Kravitz had a number of advantages going into this year.

At fifty-five, Kravitz was fired from his job in the publishing industry. He admits he saw it coming, but he was a workaholic, and he didn't do anything to change the situation when he could. Once he had time on his hands, he came to an admirable decision. He was going to devote a year to trying to take care of "loose emotional ends," unfinished business.

In the course of the year, Kravitz made ten life journeys to bring closure, and try to make things right in his life. He came from a family that had been torn apart by illness, loss of money, and family bitterness. Some of his goals involved bringing family members closer together. He looked for, and found, his Aunt Fern who had been institutionalized, suffering from schizophrenia. He tried to reunite his father and his father's brother, along with a cousin. He made a condolence call on a friend who had tragically lost a daughter. He found a couple friends from his young adult years. My favorite story involved finding, and thanking, his favorite teacher.

I'm the first to admit that the faults I find with this book may be from my own feelings. Kravitz encourages everyone to take steps and reach out. He's right. However, he had the money to do this, even though he was unemployed for a year, and had a family. He still had a house in the country. He still had the money to fly around and visit the people he needed to talk to. The book was meant to be an inspirational account of Kravitz' year of making amends, and doing the right thing in regards to other people. At times, I found it self-indulgent. He relied on his wife to take care of his three kids, although he does say he became closer to them, and even coached his son's softball team. At the same time, he was making these journeys away from home to tend to his own issues. And, one story that seemed to drive him about a boy he once promised to send books to, ended up with a box of books sent years later to that library. That story just seemed to be a token gesture, and even then, it was his daughter that made the suggestion, not Kravitz himself.

Inspirational? Self-indulgent? A good story, although it rambled at times? Maybe I'm a little too hard on this book, but it bothered me at times. I'd love to know what others think who take time to read Lee Kravitz' Unfinished Business: One Man's Extraordinary Year of Trying to Do The Right Things.

Unfinished Business: One Man's Extraordinary Year of Trying to Do The Right Things by Lee Kravitz. Bloomsbury USA, ©2010. ISBN 9781596916753 (hardcover), 224p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a review copy, in hopes I would review it.


Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Having money *does* help, doesn't it? :)

I felt the same way about "Eat, Pray, Love," although I enjoyed the book. Sort of a "yes, living abroad for a while IS a nice gig...if you can get it!"

Lesa said...

Exactly, Elizabeth! I feel sorry for anyone that loses a job in this economy. I know how hard it is to get a new job. However, despite the fact that Kravitz lost that one, there was no evidence that he ever looked for a new one. Granted, the book wasn't about losing a job. It was about making amends. But, he evidently could afford to take a year to do that. How many of us have that luxury?

bermudaonion said...

The premise of the book sounds good, but I have a feeling the things you point out would bother me too.

Lesa said...

The premise is good, Kathy. But, most of us would have to work within limited means and opportunity to take care of "Unfinished Business."

caite said...

I am not sure where the real issue is if you lose your job but have enough money for it not to effect your lifestyle. Now if you are going to lose your house, or the electric is getting cut off, that is a problem. yes, all that time on your hands...but for most of us, that would be a plus, not a problem.

I am afraid that 'self indulgent' sums up my feeling on many, many memoirs.

Lesa said...


I think the problem for me was he started the book with losing his job, and the idea that his job was who he was. And, his unfinished business redefined him. At the same time, I never saw any attempt to get another job. Granted, the travel turned into a book, so that was a job. There was just something I found unsatisfying in this book.

Bev said...

I felt that way about "Three Cups of Tea". No matter how much people raved about it, all I got out of it was a self centered individual who spend a lot of time overseas helping others and leaving his family to fend for themselves - financially and emotionally.

Lesa said...

Interesting reaction, Bev. I haven't read "Three Cups of Tea," although our book group here at the library discussed it. I would have probably felt the same way you did.

Anonymous said...

The fact that this man worked hard enough for many years to have a safety net, buy an apartment in New York and a second home in the country does not render his message or his crusade less meaningful than if it had come from a struggling welfare recipient. Or from a frustrated writer.

My financial situation is far below his, but I still found his quest meaningful and inspirational even though the prospect of owning a second residence or living without a salary is not part of my reality.

None of his trips during the span of a year took more than a week, if that much, and he did not stay in hotels. His wife supported his efforts, it was not as if he went to Las Vegas and left her hauling water from the well against her wishes.

It appears your pettiness blinded you. It's not about emulating his year, it's about learning from his experiences and applying the lessons to our lives. Picking up a phone, sending an e-mail or a letter to say "I am sorry" or to re-connect do not require being wealthy.

Laura S. McGarrigle

Lesa said...

Thank you, Laura. I did ask for opinions as to this book because I thought it might just be me that was bothered by it. I appreciate it.