This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman

This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman
Published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins

Liz Bergamots is enjoying her life in New York City with her husband, Richard, and two children, Jake and Coco. But everything changes for Liz when fifteen-year-old Jake is sent a sexually explicit video by a thirteen-year-old girl with a crush on him. Without even thinking, Jake forwards the video to a friend, who forwards it to another friend, and so on, and before he knows it, the video has gone viral. How each member of this family chooses to react to this situation has devastating effects on everything that follows.

My book club chose This Beautiful Life as the February selection, a choice I was completely on board with because I thought the premise of this one sounded fascinating and, unfortunately, entirely realistic. I was sad that I had to miss the meeting due to a work conflict, but had I been there, I would have been a loud voice saying that I was NOT a fan of this novel. Let me tell you why.

The biggest problem I had with This Beautiful Life (or problems, I suppose) was the characters. Every single one of them. I hated the way they each reacted to the video and its aftermath, I hated the way they interacted with one another, and I hated the way they each contributed significantly to the destruction of their family. Liz especially reacted so destructively and almost disgustingly to what happened to her son. It was just not good.

Everything about this novel was just sad. The young girl who found it necessary to email a pornographic video of herself to Jake, the person that Jake turned into by the end of the novel, the way the head of the school reacted to this situation – all of it was beyond sad. By the end, there was just nothing about this book that could redeem it in my eyes.

I suppose I did find the writing in This Beautiful Life to be quite good; in fact I might be willing to read another Schulman novel based on the writing alone. But overall I just did not like this book. It may be a fascinating topic, but it just didn’t work for me.

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6 thoughts on “This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman

  1. I’m definitely going to trust you, Heather, and Sandy on this one and stay away from this. I have a feeling it would make me really angry as well.

  2. Excellent review today. I agree with you totally, and have to say that the whole book inflamed me to a point that I couldn’t stand. My review went up today too, and I mentioned a lot of the things that you did, but of course, I was a lot more verbose! All the situations in this book made me really mad, from the characters, to the sex scenes, to the old boyfriend stalking…just weird and angering.

  3. I hated every damn one of them. They were awful. Was it realistic? Some of it yes. I know this stuff happens, but the way the family handled it? I would like to think that they are the worst case scenario. I really wanted to claw something when I finished it.

  4. What a shame! I never can deal with books where all the characters are loathsome — I know it shouldn’t prevent me from enjoying the writing and plot, but it does nearly without exception. I need somebody to root for!

  5. That’s a bummer that it was so sad and to me sounds negative. It does say something that you would read this author’s work again…just not this one.

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