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This Beautiful Life: A Novel Paperback – February 7, 2012
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Everything We Keep: A Novel
On the day of her wedding, she buried her fiancé—and unearthed shocking secrets. Learn More
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“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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Top Customer Reviews
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
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.
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
read it in less than one day. dated situation, so not very realistic reading in 2016. i am very aquainted with children, all the way to 45 yrs old, who act inappropriately and are... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Elaine The Schramm
Excellent commentary on modern families and how easily a family can unravel. Would have liked ending to be a little more depth, about what happened to everyone. Good, quick read!Published 10 months ago by Bena Weires
This book follows the Bergamots, newly resident in New York City. Six-year-old Coco and her fifteen-year-old brother Jake seem to be adjusting to their new life. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Amanda Chacon
In this age of high technology, the Bergamot family is devastated and torn apart when their fifteen year- old son, Jake, is caught up in a porn scandal. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Lynn M.
This book tackled a difficult subject but left a BIG void. The characters weren't even particularly likeable. Read morePublished 13 months ago by A. Crandall
The dramatic "slap" that changes so many lives in this story is a parent's worst nightmare. When you think about it, there are far too many "parent's worst... Read morePublished 16 months ago by Jeffrey Swystun
Interesting topic, but the overall story line was rather predictable.Published 16 months ago by n juar
I had a hard time following this book some of the time. Following each person's story got confusing jumping back and forth.Published 18 months ago by Jackquelyn Swett