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Unfinished Business [Hardcover]

Lee Kravitz
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

May 25 2010
After losing his job, Lee Kravitz, a workaholic in his midfifties, took stock of his life and realized just how disconnected he had become from the people who mattered most to him. He committed an entire year to reconnecting with them and making amends.
Kravitz takes readers on ten transformational journeys, among them repaying a thirty-year-old debt, making a long-overdue condolence call, finding an abandoned relative, and fulfilling a forgotten promise. Along the way, we meet a cast of wonderful characters and travel the globe—to a refugee camp in Kenya, a monastery in California, the desert of southern Iran, a Little League game in upstate New York, and a bar in Kravitz's native Cleveland. In each instance, the act of reaching out opens new paths for both personal and spiritual growth.
All of us have unfinished business—the things we should have done but just let slip. Kravitz's story reveals that the things we've avoided are exactly those that have the power to transform, enrich, enlarge, and even complete us. The lesson of the book is one applicable to us all: Be mindful of what is most important, and act on it. The rewards will be immediate and lasting.

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Review

"[Kravitz] has written an achingly candid account of following through on the Unfinished Business of a life in which, like many of us, he was always too busy to do the human things that matter the most." - Gail Sheehy, USA Today

“[Kravitz’s] journeys take him all over the world, helping him put into perspective what truly matters in his life. He teaches readers to appreciate what they have and to tackle any unfinished business they may have themselves. He does what so many people wish they could do and inspires others to take a step back and see what is missing in their life.”  —Baltimore Jewish News

“Kravitz is a thoughtful writer, and his memoir reveals a delicate personal journey.”      —Publishers Weekly

“Kravitz writes with an inspiring sincerity. His experiences are so familiar that it would be hard for readers not to reflect on their own unfinished business — and want to tend to it.”  —Denver Post

“When Lee Kravitz lost his job as editor-in-chief of Parade magazine, he decided to spend a year connecting all the dots his busy working life had left emotionally adrift, reaching out to grasp the hands and hearts of family members, friends, and mentors he had left behind. His adventures in outreach are moving, and quietly inspiring.” —Barnes & Noble Review

“This book will strike a chord with those of us who feel we've left some things behind in the relentless pursuit of work and careers. What better time than summer vacation when our bodies have left the office, but our minds may still be there, than to read this book and think about our own unfinished business.”  —The Republican

“He was one of the many; he lost his job. But what he did next might be a bit distinctive. Instead of setting out to get a new job, he took a year to set some things straight, things that had been neglected during his years steadfastly dedicated to his profession. His unfinished business led him on ten journeys of redemption, including repaying long-overdue debts, keeping promises, and reaching out to a distant friend. The stuff that life should be made of - re-thinking, redoing, reliving.”  —UrbanBaby

“Kravitz writes with an inspiring sincerity. His experiences are so familiar that it would be hard for readers not to reflect on their own unfinished business -- and want to tend to it.”  —Washington Post

“Kravitz presents an honest looks at himself as a workaholic who, jarred from his routine when fired from his job, decides to spend a year mending fractured relationships and catching up on forgotten promises.  A lively read.  In the often-obnoxious realm of the feel-good memoir, this one stands out as a rare success.”—Jew-ish.com

“A candid account of how a person takes all the things he always meant to do and transforms them into meaningful learning experiences.” —J., The Jewish News Weekly of Northern California

“Inspirational but never preachy, Kravitz’s memoir reminds us of what really matters … and shows us how to begin searching for, and finding it.”—Hudson Valley News

“When award-winning journalist Lee Kravitz is laid off from his job, he realizes he has spent most of his life working too hard. He uses this life-changing moment as an opportunity to take stock of his life. Unfinished Business takes readers on 10 transformational journeys in which Kravitz reconnects with those dear to him and makes amends. The lesson to be shared: ‘Be mindful of what is most important, and act on it. The rewards will be immediate and lasting.’”—Cleveland Jewish News

“Kravitz sets out on a mission, devoting a year to completing the unfinished business in his life, including making amends to the people he has hurt. Self-effacing, self-aware, he embarks on a journey in which he reconnects with a schizophrenic aunt neglected by their family, forgives a high school nemesis and honors a forgotten promise to an underprivileged African boy. What could have turned into a self-congratulatory, Disneyesque odyssey becomes an occasion for real kindnesses and growing sensitivity.” —Time

“A fascinating read, and an example of how anyone’s life can be interesting.”—Jen A. Miller, Book a Week with Jen blog

 “[Kravitz’s] journeys…are truthful, generous and worthwhile.  Through his experiences, he found meaning, an acceptance of life’s absurdity and the insight that so much comes down to attitude and keeping the many threads of life thrumming.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Lee Kravitz’s illuminating and uplifting midlife memoir, Unfinished Business, is the perfect antidote to those middle-of-the-night sweats, when we toss and turn and torture ourselves with endless shoulda-coulda-wouldas. Achingly candid, this beautifully written and touchingly personal chronicle traces the author’s year-long journey of searching for the pieces he left behind, and how it led him to finding his better self. Kravitz has written a triumphant love letter to the human condition.”—Marlo Thomas, author of The Right Words at the Right Time

Unfinished Business is not just the story of how and why and when Lee Kravitz decided to tie up his loose ends, although all that is here. It’s also about the extraordinary and unexpected events that unfold in his life and others’ once he states the intention to pursue completion and becomes determines to see it through. This is an uplifting and truly life-affirming book.”—Hope Edelman, author of The Possibility of Everything

“Everyone complains about not having enough time—but what happens when we get it? Lee Kravitz used losing his job as a springboard to the human things he should have done. In so doing, he turned bad into bountiful. A great lesson for us all.”—Mitch Albom, author of Have A Little Faith

Unfinished Business is a rich, wise and powerful work that reminds us to be ever mindful of that which is truly important. By taking honest and courageous stock of his own unfinished business, Lee Kravitz calls on us all to live lives that honor our best selves. It is a timely and inspiring book.”—Dave Isay, founder of StoryCorps

“Lee Kravitz has written the perfect memoir for our time. He turns a personal setback into a sweeping affirmation of life, family, and resilience. Unfinished Business will surprise you with its nuance and amaze you with its grace and have you reaching out to someone you love.”—Bruce Feiler, author of Walking the Bible

About the Author

Lee Kravitz was Editor-in-Chief of PARADE, the Sunday newspaper magazine, from 2000-2007. Before that he was the Founding Editor of REACT, a magazine for teens, and served as an Editorial Director of Scholastic Inc. As a journalist, Kravitz has traveled on assignment to dozens of countries. His mission as a writer and editor has been "to tell stories that connect emotionally to everyday Americans, moving them to actions that improve their lives, nation and world." Kravitz is president of Youth Communication, a publisher of writing by and for inner-city teens and youth in foster care. He is also active on the boards of the Public Education Network and The League: Powered by Learning to Give. A graduate of Yale College and the Columbia University Journalism School, he lives in New York City and Clinton Corners, New York, with his wife and three children.

Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring Oct. 1 2011
By Saro
Format:Paperback
In Unfinished Business: One Man's Extraordinary Year of Trying to Do the Right Things, Lee Kravitz recounts his journey to salvation subsequent to being fired from his high powered job as editor-in-chief of Parade magazine. At the age of 54, he found himself footloose against his will. He was a 54 year old workaholic who had sacrificed work-life balance in order to cultivate business relationships and produce copy. All of a sudden, his world is turned upside down and he realizes that he is a stranger to his family as well as to himself. The book is highly introspective and follows the vein of many self-help books in the Happiness genre which usually devote 12 months to transforming their lives. In Kravitz's case, he decides to take care of unfinished business which has left him nagging, feeling guilty, and he decides to rectify the past - with his family, old school friends, as well as former mentors.

It was enjoyable, indeed, specially if you're open to the kind of self-help books that urge you to take stock of your life and make amends, giving you the possibility to live mindfully.
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Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  45 reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Although I Agree With The Premise, I Didn't Connect With This Book Aug. 4 2010
By Jennifer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Book Overview

Lee Kravitz was a self-described workaholic, who freely admits that he let his job dominate his life at the expense of his family. So when he loses his job as a magazine editor at the age of 54, it is a wake-up call to him. Stunned and shamed by the loss of the his job--the one thing that provided his identity for so long--Kravitz finds himself at loose ends.

His wife suggests he attend a yoga retreat to help him deal with his feelings of loss and hopelessness. At the retreat, he realizes that he can take a year to take stock of himself and become the type of person he would really like to be. He ends up realizing that to move forward, he needs to take care of unfinished business from his past. He then compiles a list of ten areas in his life where he has unfinished business to take care of. These tasks include things such as:

* finding a long-lost relative
* making a long-overdue condolence call
* reaching out to a distant friend
* letting go of a grudge
* healing a rift in the family.

Each chapter of the book details the story behind each item of unfinished business and how Kravitz goes about tying up these loose ends in his life.

My Thoughts

It is a shame that I read this book right after The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. Both are inspirational memoirs, but the comparison really ends right there. Whereas I felt uplifted, inspired and awed by hearing about William Kamkwamba's life, I was not too inspired by Mr. Kravitz's story. For one, it was difficult to empathize with him. Although I can sympathize with the feelings of loss and shame that can accompany a job loss in middle age, Kravitz was not plunged into a difficult financial situation. He had money enough to live comfortably for a year--as well as maintain two residences (an apartment in New York City and a country house). Although he might have felt a loss of identity, he didn't want for something to eat or have to worry about providing for his family--a situation uncommon for most people who are victims of downsizing or layoffs.

Secondly, much of the unfinished business that Kravitz feels compelled to attend is a result of his own workholism and consistent choice to let his work take priority over everything else. By putting his work before people for years and years, Kravitz is really the architect of many of his own problems. He briefly talks about the impact that his long work hours had on his family and his wife Elizabeth, yet not one of the his unfinished business tasks directly involve spending more time with his family. Although some of his attempts to make peace with his past tangentially affect his relationships with his immediate family (for example, he coaches his son's baseball team as a way of reconnecting with his father and an old friend), much of his unfinished business involves taking trips to various locations to meet up with and make peace with long-lost friends and family members. Part of me kept thinking: "You admit that you ignored your family for years by putting work first and now you are traveling all over the country to visit people you haven't seen for 20 years in order to lay to rest some issues from your past?!? Seems to me like you should start with your wife and kids first." To me, it felt as if Kravitz chose to put this personal project of completing unfinished business before his wife and kids once again.

I also didn't get emotionally involved with Kravitz's story. His writing--while competent and clear--just didn't connect emotionally with me. It felt a bit dry and distant. Perhaps his journalism background is to blame. It could also be his emotional make-up is more "masculine" than "feminine," which tends result in a more "this is what happened" approach than "this is what I felt" approach. Although Kravitz is candid and open about his own shortcomings, I didn't feel a sense of connection with him. In a memoir, I think that is essential to truly enjoying the book.

I feel like I'm being very harsh on this book, and I'm not entirely sure why. The stories that Kravitz tells are somewhat interesting and filled with good advice and intentions. I suspect that many people will relate to the things that Kravtiz works on throughout the book. How many times have we put off making a condolence call because we felt awkward about it or didn't know what to say? How many of us made a promise that we never kept and then regretted for years afterward? How often do we really go back to thank our mentors and let them know the value of their guidance? I do think there is value in taking care of unfinished business before our time here on earth runs out. I'm sure most of us would benefit from taking some time to think through our own lives to identify our own areas of unfinished business and taking steps to resolve them. In thinking back on my own life, there are a few areas that I would like to tie up into neater packages. But I do think the key is to not let the truly important moments go by and to keep your priorities in focus every day.

My Final Recommendation

Although I like the idea of taking time to resolve any unfinished business in our lives and the book is competently written, I wasn't emotionally drawn into Kravitz's story. However, I could envision a certain type of reader benefiting from this book--for example, an emotionally distant professional male might relate to Kravitz's story and find more inspiration and value in it than I did. In addition, readers who have a lot of unfinished business of their own might find much of value in Kravtiz's journey and approach to tying up his own loose ends.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Time for Repair April 1 2010
By Yours Truly - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Lee Kravitz may have neglected friends and family for twenty years while building a career, but when he got kicked out of his high-flying job, he didn't look for another one. Instead, he spent a year tracking down the people with whom his relationships were left dangling. Tying up this "unfinished business" became a spiritual practice that many of us might well undertake.

Few of us, however, have as many colorful stories, and it's Kravitz's ability to parcel out the fascinating bits as he digs deeper into what really matters to him and to his wife and children, his parents, aunts and uncles and long disconnected friends and mentors that make this book compelling. I loved it.

He starts with his schizophrenic Aunt Fern, emotionally if not physically abandoned in a nursing facility not far from where she grew up. Fern had once been Kravitz's favorite relative, a gifted pianist and a sharer of secrets, but when Kravitz contacted her social worker, he learned that she had received only one visitor in 14 years--and it wasn't a relative. He visits her, deeply reconnecting and making sure that other members of his extended family know how to do the same. Some do.

There are nine more such stories in this book. Like his father and grandfather, Kravitz (in his fifties) was a workaholic, but unlike them, he enjoyed an elite and rigorous education. It turns out he was paying attention when the reading turned to Camus and Buber and even the Gospels. He also married a good woman, Elizabeth, who shipped him off to a yoga center in Massachusetts to sort himself out when he got fired.

While he stays close to his roots as a Jew, Kravitz is not afraid to learn from the world's other great religions, and he touches on most of them. Seekers of all persuasions will find inspiration here.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Something all of us should try April 22 2010
By S. Kay Murphy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
The simple truth is that all of us have good intentions, but nine times out of ten we don't act on them. The little things--'Oh, I should send a sympathy card' that we think of but fail to do can be brushed aside with the excuse that we are busy. But the larger things--emotionally abandoning a difficult relative--can wear on us. I like the premise of this book, and I like the spare but honest writing style of Kravitz. I think the book gets a bit bogged down in his attempt to render up long philosophical conversations about religion, but I do think there is something for everyone in this project.

Recommended.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an interesting and thoughtful book April 21 2010
By pebbles - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
This book attracted me because, I, like the author had a life altering event that is causing me to take a hard look at the way things are and the way things should be. He lost his job, and fortunately, unlike most people, had enough money stashed to take a year off to get his life in order. I'm not sure if I agree that going back over all hurts is a good thing, but he is determined to make right many of the mistakes he has made while he was completely absorbed in his work life. His family are strangers. He's lost touch with relatives and friends and even opted to work instead of going to his beloved grandmother's funeral. This book is his journey back from isolation and single lens focus to a broader, more balanced life. It will draw you in whether you believe in restitution or not. I found things in it for me that may help me on my journey as well.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Taking Care of (Unfinished) Business April 7 2010
By W. A. Carpenter - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Kravitz's book has an intriguing premise - taking care of unfinished business in your life cleans up the guilt, bad karma, debts, unhealthy family dynamics, and other loose ends that weigh you down psychologically. And living like this is a good spiritual practice that will increase your psychic energy and the joy you experience in your life.

Kravitz's own experience with this practice, prompted by the major blow of losing his job (he's a self-described workaholic), is interesting, moving, and inspiring. In the course of a year he visits an institutionalized aunt, helps his father and uncle reconcile, reunites with old friends, pays a debt, makes good on a promise, and incidentally improves his relationship with his wife and children.

Recommended.
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