Riding the Edge

A Love Song to Deborah

Non-Fiction - Memoir
318 Pages
Reviewed on 08/19/2021
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Author Biography

There's a Talmudic expression that says what comes from the heart enters the heart. Although Riding the Edge is not about my wife's Alzheimer's diagnosis, her illness did inspire me to write about our six month, not quite around-the-world bicycle odyssey. This memoir is both a testimonial to the most extraordinary woman I know and a story of our transformative journey in 1980 across Europe, Lebanon, and Israel where we encountered the horrors of war and the bravery and resilience of its survivors, along with astonishing visual and culinary delights.

This is how one reviewer described the book:

There is not a sense that remains untouched by Michael Tobin’s love song to Deborah and to their life together. One can smell and taste the forests and the rich and ethnic food, hear the cacophony of gripping personal stories, some painful, some filled with grace, along with the calls and whispers of animals and birds. One’s mind’s eye envisions the panoramic vistas, both the miraculously gorgeous and those assaulted by the horrors of war.

“The moistness of the soil, the coldness of the metals, the fabric of humanity, and the materials of their journey, both gentle and harsh, amid an unending search for resolution—all these create a full-heart and full-mind experience for the reader.

But most of all, this book moves the soul.”

    Book Review

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.