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This Beautiful Life: A Novel Paperback – February 7, 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (February 7, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780062024398
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062024398
  • ASIN: 0062024396
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (149 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #621,358 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Riveting. . . . As much as this book fiercely inhabits our shared online reality, it operates most powerfully on a deeper level, posing an enduring question about American values.” (Maria Russo, New York Times Book Review)

“This Beautiful Life is as much a bracing novel as a timely cautionary tale…. Schulman has managed to capture this bizarre of-the-moment tragedy in a novel that remains deeply humane and sensitive…. This Beautiful Life is a powerful story of a good family in crisis.” (Mary McGarry Morris, Washington Post)

“Schulman’s topical, unsettling new novel [is] set in Manhattan’s world of private-school privilege but chillingly relatable for parents anywhere…. Raising tough questions about child rearing, morality and the way the Internet both frees and imprisons, Schulman’s story resonates.” (People (3 ½ out of 4 stars))

“A rich, engrossing, and surprisingly nuanced novel exploring timeless questions of guilt and responsiblity.” (O, The Oprah Magazine)

This Beautiful Life isn’t just an intimate look at family breaking down under intense pressure; it’s also a sharp and unsparing indictment of a culture in search of scapegoats. In this timely and provocative novel, Helen Schulman maps out the contours of a contemporary American nightmare.” (Tom Perrotta, author of The Leftovers and Little Children)

“A gripping, potent, and blisteringly well-written story of family, dilemma, and consequence. While the setting is thoroughly modern, the drama feels as ancient and inevitable as a Greek myth. I read this book with white-knuckled urgency, and finished it in tears. Helen Schulman is an absolutely brilliant novelist.” (Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Committed and Eat, Pray, Love)

“In the hands of a lesser writer, this might have been simply a book about a scandal; Helen Schulman, though, has a long enough view, and a large enough heart, to have found in that scandal’s outlines a mournful and affecting portrait of our brave new social world.” (Jonathan Dee, Author of The Privileges)

“Helen Schulman’s trenchant social observations and precise, lucid writing are brought to bear on the timely story of a crisis in the life of the Bergamot family…. Schulman takes on a controversial topic with depth, evenhandedness, and warmth. Spare and focused, This Beautiful Life packs a wallop.” (Kate Christensen, author of The Epicure's Lament and The Great Man)

“In another writer’s hands, it might come out as a cautionary tale, but Schulman is careful not to paint anyone as villain or victim.” (Hannah Gerson, New York Observer)

“A harrowing and moving account of just how much twenty-first-century technology has magnified the scope of the kind of imbecilities in which teenagers excel. It’s poignant about the fragility of even those homes that are seemingly invulnerably insulated by privilege and caring and vigilant parents.” (Jim Shepard, author of Like You'd Understand, Anyway)

“With psychological acuity and cinematic pacing, Helen Schulman takes a hypercontemporary nightmare…and parlays it into a wildly compelling novel about parenting, privilege, and the fragility of happiness…. This Beautiful Life is moving, disturbing, and grandly incisive.” (Jonathan Miles, author of Dear American Airlines)

“Helen Schulman is one of the most gifted writers of her generation.” (Jennifer Egan, author of A Visit from the Good Squad)

From the Back Cover

When fifteen-year-old Jake Bergamot receives—and then forwards to a friend—a sexually explicit video that an eighth-grade admirer sent to him, the video goes viral within hours. The scandal that ensues threatens to shatter his family’s sense of security and identity—and, ultimately, their happiness. This Beautiful Life is a devastating, clear-eyed portrait of modern life that will have readers debating their assumptions about family, morality, and the choices we make in the name of love.


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Customer Reviews

Luckily it only took me a few days to read this book so not too much of my time was wasted.
Kermit
The writing is clear and emotional and the author does an excellent job of developing the characters.
Katherine
The characters lack depth, the story meanders nowhere and the surprise ending feels purposeless.
Chris Nicholls

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Kare Anderson VINE VOICE on June 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
No matter how well-intentioned we are - and the couple in this novel, the Bergamots do mean well -- modern life has fresh ways of making things go awry for couples and families. I wound up caring so much about each of them, vulnerable and strong in different ways and think you will too. What happens when a very in-love couple moves with their two children --an active, adopted six year old from China and a 15 year old sensitie son Jake -- from comfortable Ithaca into New York City - for the man's enticing new job?

Even though the cover description sounded like the story could be poignant, and it is, Schulman's subtle, deft writing pulled me in from page one. This family of fully fleshed out characters, happy, enjoying life, can be hit by one innocent mistake, and the reverberations affect them all. The events ring true in this richly detailed story where literally one move sets things in motion, yet there are foreshadowed moments. No part of this seem contrived, rather it seemed like something that could happen to many other middle-class, perhaps upwardly mobile couples. Thank goodness for long plane flights, said the woman on my left (lives in Manhattan) who began reading my book when I was done. I will look for Schulman's next books to read
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31 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Chris Nicholls on August 3, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It was an interesting idea for a story: big, digital-age consequences of the kind of thing that in the past would have been easily forgotten or ignorable. The New York Times said it was a book that needed to be written. But when fifteen-year-old Jake upsets a precociously obnoxious thirteen-year-old girl and she responds in a stupid, self-desructive (though not very) and vicious way, a series of relatively unremarkable events ensues that allow Jake's mother and her clone-family to plough through tediously observed emotional tantrums that get rather dull rather quickly. Jake's dad, Richard, is driven by a wannabe-neurotic middle-aged woman's thought patterns and so is his son. Everything comes back to what she feels about things, as if she has imagined everyone else into existence.

This is the problem with the book - the characters don't convince you that they really exist. The school that is the backdrop to events, with its preening pompousness, rings fairly true although it would have been interesting to explore that angle more deeply: a school stands to lose a great deal from such an incident, and the cardboard cutout staff could have added some substance had they been given the chance.

Overall, this book is a disappointment. The characters lack depth, the story meanders nowhere and the surprise ending feels purposeless.
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37 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Karie Hoskins VINE VOICE on July 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I kept waiting and waiting for "This Beautiful Life" to reach its peak. The story hinges on an event that is described within the first few pages of the book and there is very little suspense after that.

The family - Richard, Liz, Jake & Coco - described in this book just don't seem to react too much. Jake, after forwarding a pornographic video, is suspended from school. He stays home during his suspension along with his stay at home mother and his father, taking "family time". They hardly seem to speak of the incident, neither parent seems want to deal with the event & the consequences, and they seem to just be in a holding pattern for most of the book.

Liz, more than anyone, seems bogged down by everything both in and missing from her life. "It was heaven really to be alone in that cramped apartment. And yet, as she had felt almost every day since they'd moved in, when she came back from dropping Coco off at school, or yoga, or errands, or coffee, Liz took one look at her messy home and was overwhelmed by how much there was to do and how little she wanted to do it. Finding that first step into an amorphous day, a day without bones, was always the hardest."

I do like that phrase, though - "a day without bones".

Underneath the uncertain lethargy of most of the characters, there is a message about way the role of parents has changed in this modern world. "(Richard's dad)...didn't focus on him, he didn't coddle him, he didn't help him with his homework or take his emotional temperature three times a day or do any of the things Richard and Lizzie do now, along with eating and breathing, as a way of life. Dad loved his boys within reason.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By D. Sorel VINE VOICE on July 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
My favorite kinds of books are those that focus on a family during a trying time that stresses their family dynamics. While it seems simplistic, this is a lot harder than it appears. Many authors find themselves stuck in a story with no way out and rely on cliches or unrealistic endings. True authors place their characters in emotional crisis and watch them work their way out. This is the tactic that Helen Schulman takes in her new novel "This Beautiful Life".

Lizzie is a happy housewife of two children living in New York City in 2003. She holds a PhD in art history and yearns to return her family to Ithaca, New York where they lived before coming to NYC. However, her husband Richard was offered a job that he simply could not refuse which cause the family to be uprooted. They seem to be living an idyllic life until her son, Jake, is caught in the middle of a sex scandal. Suddenly all of their lives are turned upside down as Lizzie begins to question her role as an effective parent and stay at home mom. Richard takes on the notion that he must do anything to save his family, while Jake is guilt-ridden and confused. Together, they try to overcome this event and continue on as a family. Unfortunately, some situations put even the most stable family at risk.

This plot has certainly be done before, most recently by Anita Shreve in her novel "Testimony". It is for this reason that I wanted to read Schulman's book as I was interested in her take on such a traumatic event. I have to say that in just about 200 pages, she outdoes on previous novels written on the topic. Her characters are dynamic, every changing, and real.
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