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on Aug. 28, 2012 :
I laughed all the way through Being Anti-Social, award-winning author Leigh K. Cunningham’s second novel for adult readers.
I laughed not because this is the usual situation-comedy froth but because Cunningham’s main character, Mace Evans, chooses to see the humor in the “anti-social” life she’s created for herself—and perhaps enjoys more than she’s willing to admit.
I also laughed because I adore Oscar Wilde’s pithy contrarian aphorisms, which Cunningham sprinkles throughout her story like flowers cleverly positioned in an unusually wild garden.
Mace early on admits she regrets going along with my favorite Wildeism: “The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.” Her doing so—her affair with a man whose talent in bed she can’t help but admire—ends her marriage to Ben, a man she considers a “perfect husband.”
Will the fallen Mace find another man to replace Ben, or will she continue her “anti-social” life, so described by her condescending sister, to the end of her days?
Or is it so wrong to prefer such a life, in which Oscar’s witty—some might say “cynical”—remarks apply every step of the way?
Late in the story, observing another character who’s on a strict diet confronting a table laden with food as delectable as Cunningham’s novel, Mace can’t help but quote Oscar again: “I can resist everything except temptation.”
Yes, and I can resist everything except the temptation to read Cunningham’s next novel.
(reviewed long after purchase)
on June 16, 2012 :
Being Anti-Social, set in present-day Melbourne, Australia, is award-winning author Leigh K. Cunningham’s second novel for adult readers. Because I thoroughly enjoyed her first, Rain, I looked forward to reading Being Anti-Social as soon as she published it. I wasn’t disappointed.
Mace Evans is one of five children in her family, with two older brothers and two sisters, one older and one younger. She’s 38 when the novel begins, and she’s unmarried, childless, and “anti-social,” according to her older and “unloved” sister, Shannon. She’s also a severe disappointment to her mother. On the other hand, she respects and admires her younger sister and her brothers. She considers her father “cute, cuddly, lovable, and a beacon of life.”
Despite her proud independence and desire to be left alone, Mace is also one of a group of five women who’ve been friends from their high school days—but she admits she continues to like only one of them, Kimba, “the voice of reason.”
Mace is “rather successful” in her “career as a finance executive,” even though she tells us her co-workers consider her “unfriendly,” “abrasive,” and “offensive.” On the other hand, she’s kind to her secretary and secretly enjoys the fights her peers so frequently engage in.
The novel begins with Mace’s admission of the crucial mistake she made in her life. She fell in love with Ben, married him, and remained in love with her “perfect husband” to the end of his short life. (He’s dead from leukemia when the novel begins.) And yet she caused their separation and divorce by embarking upon an affair with another man, Joshua, who was “a star when it came to bedroom achievements.” After Mace ended the affair, Joshua vengefully told Ben about it.
Mace and her siblings, friends, and co-workers journey through a few years in their late thirties and early forties. They have affairs, fall in love, marry, have children, separate, divorce, and attend funerals. Mace finds it easy to commence affairs with attractive men who ultimately prove disappointing to one degree or another. The question for her, and the reader, is whether she’ll ever find a man to replace Ben.
Mace herself might not wish to claim to be a sympathetic protagonist in the story of her life, but she is, nevertheless. She insists she doesn’t care what the people in her life think of her, and yet, she admits at one point, she does.
In her dealings with her family, friends, and co-workers, Mace Evans reveals an intense dislike of pretense as well as an ability to openly mock those who are guilty of it.
Mace is also delightfully sarcastic in the manner of Oscar Wilde, her “mentor and life coach,” a number of whose bons mots she quotes at appropriate moments in her story.
Consider this: “I might become a crazed old spinster who wears quilted dresses and odd socks, and drinks merlot yoghurt smoothies while terrifying neighborhood children—it would not be all bad.”
And so I found myself laughing, time after time, as one can only do while confronting the sweet sorrow of human life and death in the world we live in and simultaneously maintaining one’s sanity.
Thank you for this story, Leigh. I loved it from its beginning to its end.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
on June 16, 2012 :
One word - hilarious! Being Anti-Social is a far cry from Cunningham's previous novel, RAIN, which was decidedly darker and aimed more for lovers of sad, emotional stories that can and will bring you to tears. Being Anti-Social on the other hand is a lighter read and a bit of a throw-back to Bridget Jones' Diary, except for an older protagonist (Mace Evans is late thirties) and it is set in Australia rather than England. You'll find the same dry humor that was a highlight of BJD, and a protagonist who seems to end up in all sorts of hilarious predicaments and relationships.
Other than Mace's relationships with the men in her life, her group of friends and her family provide plenty of complications and challenges. The ending is delightful and fulfilling.
Mace might well become the pin-up girl for those of us who would like to escape the intensity of today's 24/7 pressure to be constantly 'networked' and 'switched-on'.
If you enjoy dry humor and wit, it's on every page of this easy, enjoyable read.
(reviewed the day of purchase)