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Saturday, November 26, 2011

This Beautiful Life

This Beautiful Life
Helen Schulman
Harper Collins, 2011

When 15-year-old Jake rejects the sexual advances of an eighth grader, then forwards a pornographic video she made for him to his friend, the beautiful life that his mother Liz and his father Richard created for him and his younger sister disappears. As expected, the video goes viral and immediately puts Jake’s future in jeopardy as well as disrupting the family’s well-being. Jake and his friends are questioned by the police and suspended from school; Liz has a breakdown of sorts; and Richard’s new job in New York is up in the air. If only, Liz laments, they had never left their idyllic life in Ithaca. If only, Richard wishes, he had made more time for Jake. If only, Jake thinks repeatedly, he had deleted that email without even watching it.

Set in a pre-9/11 Manhattan full of excessive wealth and a strange kind of innocence, this story could happen to anyone, which is what makes it so compelling. Liz and Richard make lots of mistakes along the way, not the least is their lack of parenting to their older child in order to concentrate all their time and energy with the younger one, who, ironically, becomes ignored during the family crisis. Still, it is hard to watch this unraveling of what seems like a perfectly happy family, who will never the same after this event. Readers expecting a happy ending will want to read something else, because this is a sobering, thought-provoking and somewhat depressing story.


Other novels by this author:
P.S. (2001)
A Day at the Beach (2007)

Other titles you may enjoy:

Before You Know Kindness by Chris Bohjalian (2004)
After a decade of spending a delightful summer week at their country house in New Hampshire, the members of the extended Seton family are confronted by a terrible accident, testing the values and relationships that hold them together.

The Summer Guest by Justin Cronin (2004)
Nearing the end of his life, financier Harry Wainwright journeys to a rustic fishing camp in Maine and leaves a profound legacy for a haunted young man, a Vietnam draft evader, and a spirited young woman who holds a key to the past.

Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry (2002)
In mid-1990s Bombay, Nariman Vakeel lives in a crumbling apartment with his two middle-aged stepchildren--the mild-mannered Jal and his domineering sister, Coomy, who plots to turn over the care of her stepfather to her younger sister, Roxana.

1 comment:

  1. Wow - this is a very topical matter. Might not be a page turner, per say, but it sounds interesting!