This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman
Release date: 2012 / 256 pages
Synopsis(from Amazon): 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.
Review: When TLC contacted me to read and review This Beautiful Life, I agreed because I thought it sounded like a novel a book club could discuss for hours. As a reader I tend to avoid what I think of as “issue novels.” I have read a number of Jodi Picoult’s works and tend to feel manipulated:Terrible Act Occurs… Feel outraged… starting NOW! However, Schulman’s novel approaches the issue of teen sexting from multiple perspectives within a family, and each voice is unique and authentic, so the reader feels engaged, but not manipulated.
Since I love character-driven fiction, I might have preferred getting to know only one of the characters, deeply, since by the end I felt as if I knew each character a bit, but not fully. However, the mother’s voice was quite compelling and complex and brought to life her struggles with her identity as a mother, wife, woman; her addictions to substances both real and imagined; her need for independence and dependence simultaneously. The husband was also fairly interesting and the reader is able to get to know him as well as he knows himself. The teenaged boy’s voice occasionally hit a false note in his involved musings, but was by-and-large believable. I would have liked the perspective of the “sender” of the sext — the five pages granted to her seemed more like an afterthought.
But I do believe most book clubs would appreciate this choice — it is a fast, page-turning read that would spark discussion without the aid of any formal discussion questions. In addition, if the world of privilege in New York City is a draw, then this novel will surely not disappoint.
Interested in winning a free copy? Please leave a comment and I will choose TWO lucky winners by the weekend!
Thursday, February 9th: Peeking Between the Pages
Wednesday, February 15th: A Soul Unsung
Thursday, February 16th: Luxury Reading
Friday, February 17th: There’s A Book
Monday, February 20th: A Bookish Way of Life
Tuesday, February 21st: Everyday I Write the Book
Wednesday, February 22nd: A Cozy Reader’s Corner
Thursday, February 23rd: Book Journey
Tuesday, February 28th: The Betty and Boo Chronicles
Wednesday, February 29th: Book Hooked Blog
Thursday, March 1st: Reviews By Lola
Monday, March 5th: Chunky Monkey
Tuesday, March 6th: Book Club Classics!
Wednesday, March 7th: The Book Bag
Thursday, March 8th: Suko’s Notebook
Friday, March 9th: Stiletto Storytime
Tuesday, March 13th: “That’s Swell!”