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Being Anti-Social

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  • Posted July 15, 2012

    Giving in to Temptation

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 17, 2012

    Being Anti Social Leigh K. Cunningham Mace Evans does not like

    Being Anti Social

    Leigh K. Cunningham

    Mace Evans does not like to socialize with people She would prefer drinking her wine, listening to music and hanging out with a good book. Her family has given up on trying to get her to date anyone seriously and she prefers seeing them when required. Her perspective on life takes ingenuity, creativity and honesty. Most would say that what you see in the mirror is who you are but it depends on how you view yourself and what you would record on a pad if you were to take stock of your own life and personality. Mace tells this story in her own words with the help of author Leigh K. Cunningham she defines quite accurately her definition of Being Anti-Social. Within this story there are many layers that need to be peeled away before the real Mace is revealed. Mace seems to feel like the center of a cookie with all of the frosting glued to the sides of the top and bottom of the outer pieces. The fourth child out of five felt feels sandwiched in and her few seconds of glory when she was born overshadowed by her sister Shannon her mother’s clone. But, she is not devoid of friends although upon reflection you learn they are not your typical bunch.

    As she continues to allow the reader to learn more about her life and herself she explains about her failed marriage, her deep regret for cheating on Ben, her casual affairs, the reason behind the breakup and her hope to find someone else. Mace continues with a full description of her family unit describing each sibling and parent in vivid detail so that by the time she finishes you feel as if you would know each one when they entered a room. She also includes a detailed account of the lives of her friends, which might appear rosy, or one way on the outside but definitely not when you look closer. As you hear Mace and listen to her speak you realize that she is smart, astute, sarcastic, angry and alone. Her mother, the one person she thinks does not really approve of her will show a different side before all is said and done. Mace feels that no matter what she does it is never right so why try and why adhere to the rules set out in the Evans family. Tragedy strikes and her mother is diagnosed with cancer and her whole world and her entire family’s changes. The dynamics of their relationship will change if she can try to reconnect with her in any way before it is too late. Mace is the Director of Finance for a corporation who dislikes her co-workers immensely to the point that they only communicate with her by e-mail. The one person who seems to understand her and respect her is her secretary. Rachel seems to know how to get along with Mace and the one things Mace does is appreciate this woman.

    Tragedy strikes and her mother is diagnosed with cancer and the family bonds to help her through her treatments, difficult times and the knowledge that her time is short. Mace never realizes until her mother passes just how much she admired and cared for her. Always keeping her distance and never really seeing what was right in front of both of them and not wanting to crowd her, Mace’s mother spills her love in a letter after she passes away. When Mace reads the letter in her mother’s own words just how will she react and what will she do with the knowledge? What is the final fate for Mace and will she ever find another Ben? That still remains to be seen. So what is she just wants to live her own life her way and not be a carbon copy of anyone else. What if she is headstrong, honest to a fault and definitely a true blue friend who comes to the rescue when needed? Her life she says “ is a river coursing its way through the landscape. At times, it slows to a mere trickle and other times it breaks its banks and floods green pastures.” With the help of her four friends, her bottle of merlot, pizza and chocolate and let’s not forget her life coach and mentor whose sayings she quotes throughout this book, Oscar Wilde, Mace recovers to a small degree but hopes to find the reasons why people and even she defines herself as Being Anti-Social. What does life have in store for Mace? Author Leigh K. Cunningham is the only one that knows the answer to that question and hopefully she will bring this cast of characters and Mace back again to find out the answer. Vividly described in detail, situations that will make you laugh and cry this novel asks the question: Just what does being Anti-Social Mean and is it okay to be that way?

    Fran Lewis: reviewer

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 16, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Joana James for Readers Favorite An excellent read

    Reviewed by Joana James for Readers Favorite

    An excellent read for everyone, "Being Anti-Social" follows the life of an alcoholic from a surprisingly functional family that she tries to deny her love for. Mace was blessed with a strange name, strange friends and a strange family. She is a middle aged woman who made a horrible mistake that ended her marriage. The subsequent death of her ex-husband has left her miserable with guilt and incredibly lonely. She tries to mask this with her favorite drink, Merlot, and will use every opportunity or excuse to get comfy with a bottle of the stuff. This story follows the life of friends and family and their ensuing dynamics. The title of the book stems from Mace's sitter Shannon declaring that she is anti-social and even though our protagonist would like to believe that about herself the interactions in the book tell us something totally different. In the end, Mace finally finds herself in a functional relationship.

    This book is an excellent read. It is hilariously funny from the beginning to the end and is easy to enjoy. The stories of several people are expertly woven into one, with the narrator's own story keeping everything centred. This is a light read that promotes relaxation and almost serves as a therapy of some sort. The story is different enough not to be predictable and the main character's quirkiness, though a bit obnoxious at times, is the main attraction of the book. This a great book for relaxing after a stressful day.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 12, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Amusingly clever and witty with a touch of sorrow, entertaining through and through.

    Being Anti-Social is written in a first person format, so it reads like a memoir and could be anyone's life. Mace is 38, the middle child of 5 siblings, with an introverted personality and a sensitive nature that drives her to consume large amounts of merlot paired up with chocolate. Mace uses psychology to dissect and disseminate her birth order and also her name. But most important to Mace is her personal quest to prove her sister wrong and the reasons why her sister would believe her to be anti-social.

    If not for her friends, Mace would probably spend most of her time at home and it pains her when family get together's are on the horizon. Mace takes the reader on a ride through her dysfunctional relationships with men that leaves one wondering if it is possible for someone to really be that naive or just desperate, while at the same time leaving the reader with a good laugh.

    I could relate to the personality Cunningham envelops Mace into, and as a reader, I can truly relate to her character and feelings of loneliness as her girlfriends and siblings enter permanent relationships leading to marriage and children. Her relationship with her parents and siblings is positive overall, except for her sister Sharon who is on Mace's list of those to avoid. I found the scenes with her mother painful and heartbreaking and I felt this added the most realism to the story.

    Mace is a complicated character who is at times up front and sarcastic in her thinking and throughout the book the author has her quoting Oscar Wilde, whom she calls her mentor. Because of her strong characteristics I feel this book is not just for anyone and would appeal only to a specific crowd. I don't mind the quoting a bit, however I can see how it can be distracting for some readers. Being authors are not perfect, I am sure Cunningham can use this as a learning tool if she decides to write a sequel to Mace's life, which I would highly look forward to reading. In conclusion, Mace found what was most important and pleasing to her, which includes gratification and comfort in her own individuality.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 16, 2012

    Hilarious!

    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.

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  • Posted June 14, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I found myself laughing, time after time

    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.

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