This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman is a very relevant story as it highlights the dangers and aftermath of what happens when young people send explicit material either over the internet or through texting. It is often devastating to everyone involved and the toll it takes on an individual has lasting effects throughout their lives.
The Bergamot family is normal by any standard. They had once lived in a small town and loved it but Richard was offered a prestigious position with a University in New York and they felt that it was something that would benefit their family as a whole if he accepted. Life is much different in New York for Liz and for the most part she really feels out of her element. The kids now attend private schools, Richard is always working, and Liz, instead of having a career, is basically just caring for her family.
Things start out simply enough one evening when Liz and Coco are both attending a sleepover at a hotel with some other moms and their daughters and her son Jake is off to a party with his friends. It’s only recently when he turned fifteen and a half that he was even allowed to go out and take the subway with his friends. Jake and his buddies have a bit much to drink and end up at a party with some kids from school. Jake has had a crush on one of the girls but she is with a boy and off limits. There is Daisy though who is hanging all over him and while alcohol is taking over a bit he still realizes she is much too young for him at only thirteen. Later, at home, he receives an extremely sexually explicit video from Daisy and without stopping to think for even one second he forwards it to his best friend. From there the video went viral and nothing was ever the same for Jake and his family again.
What this novel really concentrates on is how this affects the family in the aftermath of the video going viral and everyone learning of it. Jake is of course suspended and it’s right around final exams and now they are all worried if he’ll get into a good college. Some people are on their side and others aren’t. Liz and Richard’s marriage gets even rockier as Liz blames moving to this elite area on all of their problems. Coco, their six year old adopted daughter gets a little lost in the shuffle until Liz finds her imitating the video that she just happened to see on her mother’s computer. Liz realizes she has to get herself and her kids back to a more stable life even if Richard doesn’t agree. She says at one point that she just can’t manage this beautiful life anymore. It’s too much for her while Richard only believes they should keep striving for more money and power.
I enjoyed This Beautiful Life. I didn’t connect with any of the characters – well maybe Liz a bit in that I really felt sorry for her. She didn’t feel she belonged in her community and then she was just so lost after the whole video incident. I think what the novel was missing most for me was an emotional connection and yet I was interested in the story being told. The novel itself is sexually explicit in parts and very raw but also exceptionally well written. I wouldn’t recommend it to those who shy away from novels with bad language or sex but for those who enjoy thought provoking reads I’d say This Beautiful Life is one of them. I also have to say that this cover really fits the novel – life is just like these cards; you can build it up to perfect but it can fall just as easily. I have to amend this because I had the hardcover picture up – so it’s the hardcover that’s like the house of cards just in case anyone is wondering why it’s different now.
I read This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman for her book tour with TLC Book Tours. You can check out other tour stops here and you can purchase your own copy of This Beautiful Life here in the US and here in Canada.
Source: Review copy provided by TLC Book Tours and the publisher. No compensation was received for this review and all opinions are entirely my own.
I do not now about this one. Those kids, oh I do not know
Linda, kids nowadays are very different from my day. Of course we didn’t have cell phones and computers were just starting up.
I’m glad u reviewed this one as I was very curious. I do have a tough time loving a book when all of the characters are unlikeable.
Diane, it wasn’t even so much that they were unlikeable, there just wasn’t an emotional connection to any of them so it makes you not care as much.
Our book club is reading this one for February, and honestly, while sexting is a very relevant subject, I almost threw my audiobook against the wall when I finished this book. The characters were pathetic and weak. Really? In the middle of all this the mother gets stoned before a kindergarten stage production? I wanted to smack them all! I can’t wait to discuss this one!
Sandy, I almost forgot about that scene. I couldn’t believe she would do that or even get drunk when her daughter was around but the thing is that is a reality for a lot of people. We may not agree with it but it’s how they live.
I do agree that they were weak – all of them really. Maybe that’s another reason that the connection to them was missing.
Linda Jacobs says
You know I’m such a sucker for books involving teenagers! I’ll definitely have to download this one. I just finished a book in which the Internet plays a vital role. Scary!
Linda J., if you do download it I hope you’ll like it. I think it’s one of those books you’ll either like or not like. Another excellent one is Exposure by Therese Fowler. I’m pretty sure you’d love that one.
Lisa (Southern Girl Reads) says
Wow, some really strong reactions to this book! It is a very timely subject but I, too have a hard time connecting to characters who are unlikable or who appear pathetic. I just don’t think this is a book I’d enjoy reading.
Lisa, this book is likely to evoke strong reactions because I d think you’ll either like it or you won’t. And you know it may just be me that didn’t connect. Someone else might.
I have been meaning to check this one out after I heard about it a while ago. I enjoyed your review Darlene, and I think I am going to read it soon. The premise interests me, though I am a little leery of the fact that you said you couldn’t connect emotionally with the characters…that’s usually a cause for me not to like a book 🙁
Beth(bookgirl), I’d be curious to see what you would think of it although you may have the same problem as me with the connection issue.
That is what interested me about the book as well – the premise. It’s a good one. Have you ever read Exposure by Therese Fowler?
bermudaonion (Kathy) says
This sounds like a very relevant novel. Vance is only 24, but I swear things like this didn’t happen as much when he was that age.
Kathy, I think this texting and internet stuff has really gone rampant in the past few years. I know it didn’t exist when I was that age but then neither did cell phones. Lol.
Just one more book to make me glad I don’t have young kids at the moment! :–) But gaah, Sandy’s comment – sounds like they didn’t have great role models!
Jill, I often think that as well. If I was a parent with how things are now I think I’d drive myself crazy with worry.
Sorry you couldn’t connect with the characters, but its an interesting topic to write about for sure. Thanks for the review.
Serena, I find this topic really interesting. It amazes me what kids do nowadays.
wow I really blew it when I didn’t accept this one for review. Fantastic review Darlene. Makes me want to go get this book now.
Jen, I’m anxious to see what others will think of the book. Like I’ve said I think you’ll either like it or you won’t.
Life can be like a house of cards, which is kind of scary when you think about it.
Jenners, it’s true. Our lives can fall so easily that it is scary. I think that’s why she used this on the book cover anyway.
I am listening to this one right now for book club, and I am not sure how I feel about it. So far it’s interesting, but I am not sure how I feel about the characters. I skimmed your review and will have to come back to it after I am done. It would be interesting to talk about this one with you.
Heather, it will be interesting to talk about this one with you and Sandy. You know I think I may have liked it better on audio.
This book sounds interesting in terms of the subject matter but the fact that you couldn’t with the characters coupled with Sandy’s comment makes me think this is a book I’ll probably pass on. It also makes me realize how difficult it is raising children well and keeping an eye on everything they’re doing with all of the technology our world has.
This is a terrific review, Dar, I appreciate your honesty!
Amy, I am always interested in books on this subject but yes the issues with the book held it back some. I agree on raising kids today. It would scare me silly.
Teenagers and all the technology these days sure is not a good mix. The premise of this book reminds me of Exposure a bit. I liked that book but not sure I will read this book. I really hate it when I don’t care about the characters in a book.
I feel like Jake could be any one of us. Maybe not with the sexting, but one thoughtless act and you can change your life or someone else’s life! I think about this a lot when I’m driving — how many times have I driven over the speed limit or done something that in retrospect was stupid. I know if I read this for book club I would take the discussion into a more philosophical area. LOL.
Thanks for being on the tour!
Holly (2 Kids and Tired) says
This one sounds interesting, but I think I’ll pass!
I think this one sounds very compelling. Your review was excellent and I think the sexual component of the book has to be there in order for the reader to buy into the whole storyline. I will be putting this on my TBR list for sure!
I heard this was really good!
This sounds like a book that would be great to discuss. So much of the younger generation gets posted all over everywhere. It can definitely be scary at times. Great review!
Alexis @ Reflections of a Bookaholic says
Seems like a book about a very real problem as a consequence of today’s technology.