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Reviewed by Saifunnissa Hassam for Readers' Favorite
Michael Tobin's non-fiction memoir, Riding the Edge -- A Love Song to Deborah, is an extraordinary memoir of a bicycle journey in 1980, and how its unexpected and incredible encounters and experiences turned into a life-changing journey. In 1980, Michael Tobin and Deborah Risk are young psychologists living together in Vermont. Michael is an American Jew. Deborah is an American Arab and a Christian. In the 1970s, Deborah traveled and lived for three years in France, Sweden, Italy, and Spain, and speaks their languages fluently. Her contacts and experiences provide a basis for their 1980 bicycle journey. They travel through Belgium, France, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, arriving in November in Lebanon and Israel. In war-torn Beirut, they meet Deborah’s cousins and visit briefly her paternal grandmother's family in Kab Elias near the Syrian border. In Israel, they stay at a kibbutz. Michael Tobin was inspired to write this memoir when Deborah was diagnosed in 2018 with Alzheimer’s disease.
At its heart, Michael Tobin's Riding the Edge -- A Love Song to Deborah is a story of love and of life-changing experiences for both Michael and Deborah. I was particularly struck by, and liked, the openness and honesty with which Michael writes of their encounters with different people. Along their bicycle journey, they meet people who are survivors of WWII, who were young at the time but felt the devastating effects of the Holocaust in which their families were killed. Both Michael and Deborah recognize how these particular encounters affect them in a deeply personal way. This is what drew me into the memoir, these inner journeys. I loved the rich details of people, food, scenery, and weather! Those details brought the bicycle trip to life for me, giving depth to the emotional and spiritual impact of the journey. Michael Tobin's memoir is a profoundly personal story of love, a well-written memoir that I enjoyed reading because it is also thought-provoking and inspiring.