This is not a book about ‘how to feel good, how to find happiness or how to reap some reward for your goodness’. Hugh Mackay’s message is that while those things may well be by-products of living ‘the good life’, if you try to chase them, you will have missed the point of the journey. He postulates that society is consumed by narcissism and the ‘Utopia complex’, which demands perfection in all areas of life. Marketing ‘brand me’ feeds our obsession with self-esteem, the ultimate goal being anti-ageing. Add to this our pursuit of a permanent state of happiness and it’s no wonder we’re downright miserable. Which leads to the question, is there a better way to live and, eventually, die? Mackay draws on real-life stories and on the observations of philosophers, poets, scientists and theologians, as well as reconstructed and imagined scenarios, fables and parables, to explain his theories. Life is a spectrum of emotions and experiences and this user’s manual advocates wholeness. Mackay is a social researcher, novelist and honorary professor of social science at the University of Wollongong.
Paula Grunseit is a freelance journalist, editor and reviewer. This review first appeared in the Issue 1 2013 of Books+Publishing magazine. View more pre-publication reviews here.