Riding the Edge

A Love Song to Deborah

Two soulmates leave the security of their well-ordered lives in search of life’s larger truths. Come along for the journey…

“I galloped through it. Couldn’t help it. It was that good a read.”
Risa Miller
Winner of the Pen Award for best first novel

Available at Bookstores Everywhere

Links coming soon…

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, 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. Have they found 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, meal, kindness, and cruelty uncover the humanness that connects all living things and shows that love is a powerful, healing life force.

What People are Saying

“Tobin’s story is powerfully engaging—readers will be eager to learn how his passionate yet volatile relationship with Deborah developed and how traveling to locations that shaped their lineage impacted them psychologically and emotionally.”
Kirkus Reviews
“Follow Michael and Deborah on their cross continent bike odyssey. 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.

Travelling 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 towards 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 towards deep meaning.

This inspirational memoir, written with an open heart, will change you.”
Naama Heller
Author and food critic
“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 multi-cultural 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 bestselling author
“The author's love song to Deborah is written in tenderness and truth. It emerges from the depths of his being directly to the readers’ 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)
“This work is utterly, utterly, infinitely, utterly brilliant. The depth of your thinking and breadth of descriptive powers are astounding. .”
Richard ShaveiTzion
Published poet
“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
“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, ghost writer, literary critic
“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
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, amidst 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 theatre director Recipient, American Jewish Press Association Simon Rockower Awards for Excellence in Jewish Journalism
“You have done a great job. And you have done something rare: I see the story now. I feel the story now. It is palpable. We can feel it thrumming all the way through. The writing is gorgeous; I laughed, and I cried.”
Marion Roach Smith
Author and renowned expert on memoir writing
“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
“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
“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 & Psychiatry with Fewer Meds and More Soul (2017); Psychotherapy for a Democratic Mind: Treating Intimacy, Violence and Evil (2018)
“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.

Travelling 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 towards 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 towards deep meaning. This inspirational memoir, written with an open heart, will change you. ”
Naama Heller
Author and food critic

Book Excerpts

On Love & Romance

By two in the morning, five weeks after first laying eyes on her, I showed my hand. The crazy thing was that my “I love you” was so unrehearsed, and so unlike me to express, that it had to be real — terrifyingly so.  Like I’d just discovered the other half of my soul and come home. A lot scarier, in fact, because in a moment of health, you can always walk away from the madness of love. But how can you leave a part of yourself?

We choose love over fear.

Here’s how:

For the next six days, we create a Paris state of mind:

We find a super cool café on the Left Bank close to the iconic bookstore, Shakespeare and Company.

She finds a table, sits alone, and I approach her as if this is our first encounter.

I say, “I see you’re alone. Are you waiting for someone?” (She replies no. I detect a slight smile. A green light? I make my move.) “Would you mind if I join you?”

She hesitates and then replies, “Why not?”

“I’m Michael and you are?”

“Deborah.” She waits, the tension builds. The ball is in my court. Do I begin with a compliment, a question, or with the unexpected sleight of hand?  In the subtle dance between the sexes, you don’t want your first step to be the one that lands on her foot. So I ask, “What’s the one line I can say that will knock your socks off?”

She laughs and says, “You may have just said it.” (We pass the first hurdle. We’re attuned, open to what may be . . .)

A French moment ripe with possibility and romance? A spark, ready to ignite? A pleasant glow, about to turn into a warmer fire? A few shared details provide context and color — call it the oxygen needed to keep the flame alive. Both of us travel solo — more freedom to be with or to be alone. Appealing and Challenging.

Appealing: The hunt is far more alluring when the prey is quicker and less vulnerable.

Challenging: The so-called prey makes a one-eighty, gazes directly into the black piercing eyes of the predator, and asks, “So why me?”

“Because you’re beautiful in a smart, powerful way . . . Because we’re in the City of Light and Love and I don’t want to lose the moment . . . Because I feel this magnetic pull toward you . . . Because . . . You want me to keep going? I have more.”

“Flattering . . . let’s save it for later. Let’s spend the day together.”

On French Cuisine

Then again, there’s something about the sophistication of French food that engages your mind and causes you to pause in wonder at the array of flavors that awaken your gustatory intelligence. French cuisine makes you think, demands discernment, and astonishes you with how a culinary genius can awaken the brilliant tastes in this simple onion soup and Caesar salad that we’re currently waxing transcendent over.

Onion soup with a perfect layer of Gruyère resting on a slice of French bread that barely conceals the aromatic bouquet of sautéed onions, white wine, and beef broth.

Caesar salad with salty anchovies, fresh parmesan, and one beautiful egg, a hair’s breadth from hard, nestled in a bed of fresh romaine. Oh, the croutons . . . crispy with a hint of garlic and lemon juice. And the pièce de résistance: Dijon dressing seasoned to perfection with freshly ground pepper and Worcestershire sauce.

On Anti-Semetism

As much as Samya and Yvonne try to be polite and inquire about our trip and our American lives, the conversation quickly reverts to the situation. Samya asks us who we supported in the recent presidential election. She doesn’t wait for our answers; she and Yvonne tell us they supported Carter because “he’s not a Jewish puppet.”

Samya informs us, “The Jews control the U.S. government, the press, and the banks. Hitler had the right idea. It’s a shame he didn’t have enough time to complete the job.”

I listen without reacting.

 

Grinding the half-smoked Gitanes into the ashtray and taking out her fourth cigarette from the leather case, she repeats the ritual — tapping, lighting with her expensive gold cigarette lighter, and exhaling a long stream of smoke through her nose. She looks at both of us and then spits out the inevitable words, “I hate Arafat and his Palestinian criminals, but it’s the Jews I hate the most.”

Tuning back in, I only catch the end of her story, “We’re a poor country; we can’t take care of 250,000 Palestinians. They rot in their filthy, overcrowded refugee camps with no chance of a better life. It’s the Jews’ fault. They gave us this tumor.”