Riding the Edge

A Love Song to Deborah

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Pub Date 20 Jul 2021 | Archive Date 31 Aug 2021

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Two soulmates embark on an around-the-world journey, leaving the security of their well-ordered lives in search of larger truths.

Forty-seven years ago, Michael discovered his soulmate Deborah on a dance floor in Keene, New Hampshire. It took her soul a few years and an around-the-world bike trek to fully reciprocate. Riding the Edge is the astonishing tale of the six-month odyssey that profoundly shaped the next 564 months of their lives together.

Taking place in 1980, Michael and Deborah—an American Jew and American Arab, respectively—leave the security of their well-ordered lives as psychologists sleepwalking toward marriage and family to explore and take risks in search of life’s larger truths. What they find is a story of magnificent vistas and memorable moments that enliven their senses to the beauty of the world even as it also reveals the vilest of human cruelty. Simple meals become transcendent experiences and chance encounters are serendipitous markers along a road directing them toward personal and spiritual transformation. Each place leaves its mark—Paris and the French countryside, Italy, Greece, war-torn Beirut, Israel—and each person an imprint even as Deborah and Michael struggle to find the truth of their love. Will they find a life partner or merely a steppingstone to another, deeper connection?

It’s a journey that has a mind and heart of its own. In the end, each story, kindness, and cruelty uncover the humanness that connects all living things and shows that love is a powerful, healing life force.

Two soulmates embark on an around-the-world journey, leaving the security of their well-ordered lives in search of larger truths.

Forty-seven years ago, Michael discovered his soulmate Deborah on a...

Advance Praise

"I galloped through it. Couldn’t help it. It was that good a read. It’s beautifully written; my heart is flapping. The romance of adventure has never been so romantic or so adventurous. Michael and Deborah ride their bikes through Europe, and then the Middle East. On these pages you will find the heights of wisdom and introspection, food writing that rivals MFK Fisher’s. The actual bike path is strewn with magnificent back road scenery and new friends, including the inspired and inspiring as well as the war devastated. But Michael and Deborah’s life-changing encounter turns out to be, in fact, between themselves. Yes: to find one another is the real purpose of their journey.” —Risa Miller, author of Welcome to Heavenly Heights and My Before and After Life and winner of the PEN Award for best first novel

"At once, a shimmering travel memoir, spiritual quest, and pilgrimage into the heart of a relationship, Riding the Edge is one of the bravest books I’ve read this year. When a multicultural couple discards their successful careers and stagnant life to cycle through Europe and the Middle East, their journey takes them to deeper, darker, and ultimately higher places than anticipated. In captivating prose that captures epicurean delight as deftly as the terror of war, Michael Tobin shares a story of self-discovery, compassion, and divine providence that will have readers redefining the meaning of love and commitment.” —Milou Koenings, USA Today best-selling author

"This is an unforgettable love story between a beautiful man and woman, two young people on an unforgettable physical and spiritual journey throughout Europe and the Middle East, seizing life courageously and appreciatively. It is a poem about the humanity of everyday people everywhere, but it is also a truthful and caring encounter with the complexity of the human soul, including the horrors of human destructiveness. The author succeeds in having us join in a celebration of life, even as he also conveys poignant sensitivity to the ultimate Holocaust that befell his people. A page turner you won’t want to put down.” —Prof. Israel W. Charny, author of The Genocide Contagion: How We Commit and Confront Holocaust and Genocide (2016); A Democratic Mind: Psychology and Psychiatry with Fewer Meds and More Soul (2017); and Psychotherapy for a Democratic Mind: Treating Intimacy, Tragedy,Violence, and Evil (2018)

"Tobin is a very engaging writer with clear prose. Especially delightful are his passages on landscape, landmarks, and various regional cuisines. The chapters on Paris and Corfu are fascinating and memorable. Score 9 of 10.” —Book Life/Publisher’s Weekly Prize

"Michael Tobin’s Riding the Edge: A Love Song to Deborah is an extraordinary memoir of a bicycle odyssey in 1980 and how its unexpected and incredible encounters and experiences turned into a life-changing journey. Along their bicycle journey, they meet people who are survivors of WWII, devastated by the effects of the Holocaust in which their families were killed. 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 beautifully written and profoundly personal story of love . . . it is also thought-provoking and inspiring.” —Reader’s Favorite Review, Highest Rating 5 of 5

"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.” —Toby Klein Greenwald, poet, journalist, award-winning theater director; recipient, American Jewish Press Association Simon Rockower Awards for Excellence in Jewish Journalism

"The author’s love song to Deborah is written in tenderness and truth. It emerges from the depths of his being directly to the reader’s temperament, and, to paraphrase Joseph Conrad, ‘reaches the secret spring of our responsive emotions.’ It is a perfect example of making art out of life. The power of this account persists long after the last word is read. Riding the Edge will shake you to the core, make you laugh, cry, and shout in outrage with the author at the suffering Deborah and he witnessed. This book is a game changer. It will challenge your assumptions, question your choices, and demand nothing less than a deep dive into the question of love and identity.” —Daniel Chertoff, author of Palestine Posts: An Eyewitness Account of the Birth of Israel (Toby Press, 2019)

"You have done a great job. And you have done something rare: I saw the story. I felt the story. It was palpable. The writing is gorgeous; I laughed, and I cried.” —Marion Roach Smith, author and renowned expert on memoir writing

"This is an intimate portrayal of two people who set out on a journey, sparked by longing and driven by a desire to discover their own history and purpose, a journey that takes you across the world and deep into themselves. Traveling through magnificent vistas and memorable moments, watch them be transformed. Simple meals become spiritual experiences, and chance encounters are serendipitous markers along the road directing them toward a deeper purpose. Peppered with anecdotes and philosophy, insightful musings and intriguing personas. Each place leaves its mark, each person its imprint. Through the Alps and litter, past castles and sea they travel. Across a traumatized Europe and a war-ravaged Middle East. They face the generational impact of war and the deep meaning of family. With each experience they uncover the humanness that connects us all and the way that love can change everything. Placed at the intersection of essence and memory, this book is at its very heart a gift, lovingly culled and magnificently rendered, given generously to you the reader so that you too can be swept away in the current of purpose and toward deep meaning. This inspirational memoir, written with an open heart, will change you.” —Naama Heller, author and food critic

"This work is utterly, utterly, infinitely, utterly brilliant. The depth of the author’s thinking and breadth of descriptive powers are astounding.” —Richard Shavei-Tzion, published poet

"Reading this book was a privilege. The writing is brilliant. So vivid I could picture the scenery, taste the food, feel the emotions of pain, sadness, and terror. I cried, laughed, and felt enriched by the experience. I will tell everyone to read it.” —Cheryl, reader

"Riding the Edge is a compelling story that is beautifully written. It truly, truly is. And within its pages are lessons, thoughts, and experiences that will most definitely resonate with a wide range of readers. It is one of the highest quality pieces this reader has ever reviewed. The characters are vivid, often humorous, always compelling, and continually unique even as many share thematic stories of violence, either during the Holocaust, World War II, or in the chaos of Lebanon.” —James Buchanan, author, ghostwriter, literary critic

"I galloped through it. Couldn’t help it. It was that good a read. It’s beautifully written; my heart is flapping. The romance of adventure has never been so romantic or so adventurous. Michael and...

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Featured Reviews

A memoir of a trip 40 years ago is as vivid and timely as today. Ostensibly a love letter to his wife as she is lost in the wilds of dementia, it is an ode to a time passed on in the histories of the people met during a bike ride thru Europe and the Middle East. Moving and thoughtful.

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Thank you to NetGalley, the publishers, and the author for giving me the opportunity to review this book. This was such a remarkable story. I really felt like I was traveling the world with our two characters. My favorite thing about reading is all that I get to experience through the author’s writing.

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4.5 Stars They met on a dance floor in the mid 1970s, the woman who he would spend the following years of his life with. He gave her his heart to her, and she would give her heart to him - eventually. She needed to find a way to fully let go of a relationship she had left behind in reality, but her heart was still reluctant to let go completely. She is an American Arab from Bluefield, West Virginia, and he is an American Jew by birth, if not by practice. This is a memoir that shares both a story of love, and a journey in the physical, emotional, and the spiritual sense, as well as a pilgrimage, for her, to travel to the land of her grandmother. After several years together, they decide to leave their home in Middlebury, Vermont in 1980, and travel to the East. Deborah wants to visit the village of her grandmother, Lebanon, and Michael wants to visit Israel, but their journey will take them from Brussels to Athens, Paris, Cyprus, Lebanon, back to Cyprus and then to Haifa, Israel. They arrived in Brussels, Belgium on May 31st. It was an inauspicious beginning. ’I want to live my life like Nietzsche: ’Amor fati- love your fate! Whatever life throws at you, embrace it. Own it. It’s what you need to be you. But not this. Definitely not this. Not my worst nightmare. Not rats in the walls. It is a journey that will include many memorable moments, moments sharing the good and the beauty found in the world, as well as the ugliness revealed, the war-torn areas they visit. The welcoming love they hope to receive when they travel to Lebanon in the hopes of connecting with Deborah’s Lebanese relatives. Her hopes to visit this land that her grandmother described through treasured memories, and the realities of that visit. The stories that are shared, as well as the welcoming love they encounter offer a light against the occasional difficult scenarios they also experience. The gift of both the pain and the love shared, along with the beautiful views along the way. The people who shared the nightmares they endured, and those who shared their happier stories with them, if only for a moment, changed them both. At moments this is heartbreaking, and in others the beauty that he shares, the descriptions of simple things - riding down the ’cobblestone roads through picturesque villages with red-tiled roofs, and spires reaching to the sky...past sweet-smelling pine trees and meadows dotted with the blues, purples, and yellows of summer wildflowers...’ makes you wish you were on this journey alongside them, if only for a moment. A journey of love, our common experiences, emotions, and the connections made through sharing our stories, ultimately this is a love song to Deborah. Published: 20 Jul 2021 Many thanks for the ARC provided by Greenleaf Book Group #RidingtheEdge #NetGalley

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This is a memoir about Michael's love with Deborah -- someone he found to be not only beautiful but brilliant, fun, passionate and full of inspiration after meeting her at a dance floor in 1974. She was everything he hoped for and more. But sometimes, life isn't that simple. Before settling down with marriage, jobs and kids, they decided to go on a bicycle journey exploring Brussels, Paris, Italy, Lebanon, Israel and other interesting places. They experienced some uncomfortable situations but for the most part, they had fun with great food, wine, music and art. With all the good times and new friends, they noted that they kept bumping into people with intense and heart-breaking WWII stories = perhaps as they were both psychotherapists. Michael felt like Deborah was the other half of his soul. Yet, during their travels, they both had serious relationship issues to get through and had to process their deepest feelings for each other. Would their love be strong enough to keep them together with different religious backgrounds? This book isn't long but it took me awhile to get through because there's a lot to digest with the serious war stories, life situations and dislike of Americans in some places. There was one point where Michael said to one of his clients: "Imagine you're lying on your deathbed...and you're watching an instant replay of your life. What would you do differently?" It's a memoir but the direction they took makes you think about your own life. My thanks to Michael Tobin, River Grove Books and NetGalley for allowing me to read this copy.

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Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an advance copy of this book in return for an honest review. It’s 1974 and Michael and Deborah meet on a disco dance floor. Intuitively, both knew they had found “the one” yet it took a few years, an around-the-world bike tour and some deep soul-searching for both of them to understand how they were going to make their journey together. Deborah identifies as a Lebanese Christian from West Virginia, and Michael is a non-practicing American Jew. Both are successful psychologists, yet there is an undercurrent of restlessness in each of them. Giving up their practices, they decide to cycle to Paris and stay with Deborah’s friend, then on to Italy, Croatia, Greece, Lebanon in search of Deborah’s long-lost family, and end in Israel with Michael exploring his Jewish roots. While Michael’s memoir starts as a travel diary, it gradually becomes a spiritual journey and a study of relationships. While Michael and Deborah take stock of their relationship to each other, their place in the world and connections to their cultures and fellow man are explored. The writing is engaging, and Michael brings to life the places they visit, the people they meet and the food they eat. From the cafes in Paris to war-torn Lebanon, their journey is full of good, bad, happy, sad, ugly and beautiful, with a very touching ending. https://candysplanet.wordpress.com/

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Riding The Edge : A Love Song to Deborah, is a well written and heartfelt memoir. The best way to explain it would be as described in the book - The story of a thirty something years old man, on an around-the-world odyssey with the woman he loves. The story takes place around 1980s. Michael - an American Jew and Deborah - an American Arab, both psychologists, travel East with a desire to discover themselves in the land of their ancestors. The book talks about love, faith, war, comfort, religion and much more. It is filled with unexpected turns and events, and does have an analytical aspect that's interesting. It was engaging and exciting to know about the family histories of Michael and Deborah and its effect on their futures. I'd recommend readers who are interested in memoirs, self-discovery or traveling book to give Riding The Edge a try. Thank you netgalley, publishers and author, Michael Tobin for the ARC.

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I am not even sure where to start with this one. It starts as a memoir but quickly becomes so much more. This story dives deep, stirring the soul and making the reader look inside themselves as well. It is more than just a love story between two people, it is so much more. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an advance copy of this book in return for an honest review

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https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/4173185868 Oh to be young and in Paris and then be cycling for hours in the cold rains and then sleeping on the wet grounds under a waterproof tent. But wait, there will be days of sunshine and groves of vineyards and fields of vegetables which turn into wine and exotic smells and delicious food and conversation. Along the way this couple will meet people who want to hear their stories and for them to tell their stories. This is a story of great sorrow, of great joy, but here is a wordsmith who is so capable of describing this really other indescribable memoir but, most of all, it is a love story for all time, Thank you NetGalley and Greenleaf Book Group for providing an e-copy of this book; this is my honest review.

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Tobin's "love story" focuses on an extensive bike trip that he and his girlfriend make in the 1980's. The trip is actually an odyssey, and the novel consists of many layers and transformations. I could not put it down. I finished it at 3 a.m. this morning. It is one of those books in which readers "live" the narrative. This tribute to the love between Deborah and Michael is a must read!

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A touching story of Michael and Deborah early in their relationship. Set in 1980, Tobin chronicles the couples ride across Europe. Discussing their ups and downs, the people they met, and their experiences, it was interesting reading. Tobin reveals why he needed to write their story at the end. He includes an epilogue, which I appreciate because I always want to know what came after. The Q & A section was also interesting reading.

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RIDING THE EDGE-Michael S. Tobin Michael Tobin is an outstanding author and I totally enjoyed reading this e-book from Net Galley. Michael and Deborah leave their very ordered lives as psychologists to travel thru Europe-Greece, Italy, Lebanon, Israel and more. They took this trip on bicycles with plans to camp or stay in hostels. There were times when they used a bus or railroad but mostly bicycles. Their goal to visit their family origin and decide if they were compatible. Michael is a Jew and Deborah is Arab. As they traveled they not only saw beautiful scenery but were able to encounter very interesting folks along the way. Lebanon was of interest to Deborah to investigate her heritage. Deborah's side trip to Sweden gave her a chance to confirm her loyalty to Michael. From Lebanon they traveled to Israel. Met many people there and Michael came to accept his heritage with great understanding.........and gained a sense of pride rather than embarrassment. I challenge everyone to read the book. Lots of reality and emotions because they are psychologists and knew how to help others while helping themselves. Michael describes the terrain and challenges so well; you feel as if right along with them. Multiple scenarios and funny stories add to the memoir. #NetGalley #Riding the Edge

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