Unfinished Business: One Man's Extraordinary Year of Trying To Do The Right Things, by Lee Kravitz, is about exactly what its subtitle suggests – a year in Lee Kravitz's life in which he goes back to correct some wrongs he committed over his lifetime. Kravitz, who decided to embark on this project after getting laid off from his job as a magazine editor in his mid-fifties, took a year to address ten things that had been nagging at him across decades, but which his busy life never gave him the time to do. He tracked down and visited an elderly relative who had been institutionalized. He repaid a $600 debt to a friend he had traveled the world with as a twentysomething. He visited a teacher who had had a significant impact on him in high school. He paid a years-late condolence call to a friend whose daughter had been killed in Iraq.
I found the premise of this book intriguing. Who doesn't have a list somewhere in the back of their mind of things that they regret, that they would go back and correct if only they had the time and the means to do so? Kravitz was floundering, without purpose, after his layoff, and this book (and, I suspect, its advance) was the perfect savior.
Some of the chapters were more moving than others. His visit to his elderly aunt – who hadn't had a visitor in 14 years – was very touching. HIs reconnection with a Pakistani friend post 9/11 was interesting, and I enjoyed learning about his travels through dangerous and forbidding lands as a 1970s post-graduate.
Unfinished Business is occasionally self-indulgent (how could it not be?), and I confess that I skimmed some of the more spiritual, New Age-y passages. I also found Kravitz a bit self-congratulatory about the role that his own journey of correcting wrongs played in the lives of the people he visited. According to Kravitz, everyone he visited and interacted with was deeply affected and improved by his outreach which seemed a bit self-promotional to me.
But I admire Kravitz' underlying message – don't let work and daily obligations get the better of you. Take the time to appreciate the people you care most about, and don't let the big, difficult things in life become insurmountable. He writes, "Allowing your unfinished business to accumulate is a bad thing. It makes you tired and irritable. Lessening your load causes the opposite to happen. [When I addressed my unfinished business], I experienced a surge of energy. I became more focused and got more done. I was a more giving person. I had more fun." He also advises, "The hurdles we face in tackling our unfinished business can seem impossibly high, but the first step in clearing them is usually quite simple: Write an email or make a phone call. You can never tell when they weight you've been shouldering will slip away, leaving you a more complete and loving person."
These are good lessons for full, busy lives.
FTC: Thank you to Alexandra at PTA Interactive for the review copy of Unfinished Business.
Also, thanks to Bloomsbury, I have three copies of Unfinished Business to give away to EDIWTB readers. If you'd like a copy, leave a comment here before Wednesday, June 30 and I will pick three names at random.