In this ambitious memoir, Mark Goodwin, an Oxford-educated baby boomer, reflects on his experiences with travel, international consulting and talk therapy, and tries to connect the disparate strands.
Goodwin’s worldview is shaped by a childhood illness that left him deaf from age 15 months to 7 years. He believes silence gave him a “sixth sense” to communicate deeply, often without shared language, as when he walked across the Sahara with friendly nomads, served on remote Pacific islands as a member of the British foreign service, and eventually pursued a career providing agriculture consulting services to underdeveloped nations.
The fact that Goodwin’s hearing gradually returned by age 13, without any treatment, spurred him to consider how those early experiences shaped him and how nature versus nurture shapes humans generally, particularly with regard to some people’s self-destructive tendencies. Eventually, he wondered whether he chose deafness in response to his family’s (unspecified) dysfunction, an insight that followed years of therapy and a leadership role in the UK men’s movement led by Robert Bly, Michael J. Meade and others.
Goodwin’s reflection and openness to personal growth via shamans and other guides is satisfying and inspiring, and he includes interesting anecdotes throughout. But the book tries to be too many things without doing any of them fully: travelogue, spiritual quest, and insightful theory of human complexity. Lengthy passages using the biblical Cain and Abel to try to explain larger issues of human nature fall flat.
Rigorous editing and organization would help Goodwin’s main ideas and the connections he sees among them stand out.
Goodwin does not explain the book title, but a Google search reveals Mannership is the name of his leadership consulting company. That’s appropriate, as this book is most likely to appeal to potential clients and men willing to overlook the above issues who are seeking a role model for their spiritual journeys.