This Beautiful Life

By Helen Schulman
(Harper, Hardcover, 9780062024381, 240pp.)

Publication Date: August 2011

Other Editions of This Title: Paperback, Paperback, Hardcover, Audio Cassette, Compact Disc, Compact Disc, MP3 CD

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Description

When the Bergamots move from a comfortable upstate college town to New York City, they’re not quite sure how they’ll adapt—or what to make of the strange new world of well-to-do Manhattan. Soon, though, Richard is consumed by his executive role at a large New York university, and Liz, who has traded in her academic career to oversee the lives of their children, is hectically ferrying young Coco around town.

Fifteen-year-old Jake is gratefully taken into the fold by a group of friends at Wildwood, an elite private school.

But the upper-class cocoon in which they have enveloped themselves is ripped apart when Jake wakes up one morning after an unchaperoned party and finds an email in his in-box from an eighth-grade admirer. Attached is a sexually explicit video she has made for him. Shocked, stunned, maybe a little proud, and scared—a jumble of adolescent emotion—he forwards the video to a friend, who then for-wards it to a friend. Within hours, it’s gone viral, all over the school, the city, the world.

The ensuing scandal threatens to shatter the Bergamots’ sense of security and identity, and, ultimately, their happiness. They are a good family faced with bad choices, and how they choose to react, individually and at one another’s behest, places everything they hold dear in jeopardy.

This Beautiful Life is a devastating exploration of the blurring boundaries of privacy and the fragility of self, a clear-eyed portrait of modern life that will have readers debating their assumptions about family, morality, and the sacrifices and choices we make in the name of love.




Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What are your impressions of the Bergamot family? How do Liz and Richard’s backgrounds influence how they view the good fortune of their lives?




Praise For This Beautiful Life

eoeRiveting. . . . As much as this book fiercely inhabits our shared online reality, it operates most powerfully on a deeper level, posing an enduring question about American values.e
-Maria Russo, New York Times Book Review

eoeThis Beautiful Life is as much a bracing novel as a timely cautionary talee. Schulman has managed to capture this bizarre of-the-moment tragedy in a novel that remains deeply humane and sensitivee. This Beautiful Life is a powerful story of a good family in crisis.e
-Mary McGarry Morris, Washington Post

eoeSchulmane(TM)s topical, unsettling new novel [is] set in Manhattane(TM)s world of private-school privilege but chillingly relatable for parents anywheree. Raising tough questions about child rearing, morality and the way the Internet both frees and imprisons, Schulmane(TM)s story resonates.e
-People (3 out of 4 stars)

eoeA rich, engrossing, and surprisingly nuanced novel exploring timeless questions of guilt and responsiblity.e
-O, The Oprah Magazine

eoeThis Beautiful Life isne(TM)t just an intimate look at family breaking down under intense pressure; ite(TM)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.e
-Tom Perrotta, author of The Leftovers and Little Children

eoeA 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.e
-Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Committed and Eat, Pray, Love

eoeIn 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 scandale(TM)s outlines a mournful and affecting portrait of our brave new social world.e
-Jonathan Dee, Author of The Privileges

eoeHelen Schulmane(TM)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 familye. Schulman takes on a controversial topic with depth, evenhandedness, and warmth. Spare and focused, This Beautiful Life packs a wallop.e
-Kate Christensen, author of The Epicure's Lament and The Great Man

eoeIn another writere(TM)s hands, it might come out as a cautionary tale, but Schulman is careful not to paint anyone as villain or victim.e
-Hannah Gerson, New York Observer

eoeA 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. Ite(TM)s poignant about the fragility of even those homes that are seemingly invulnerably insulated by privilege and caring and vigilant parents.e
-Jim Shepard, author of Like You'd Understand, Anyway

eoeWith psychological acuity and cinematic pacing, Helen Schulman takes a hypercontemporary nightmareeand parlays it into a wildly compelling novel about parenting, privilege, and the fragility of happinesse. This Beautiful Life is moving, disturbing, and grandly incisive.e
-Jonathan Miles, author of Dear American Airlines

eoeHelen Schulman is one of the most gifted writers of her generation.e
-Jennifer Egan, author of A Visit from the Good Squad

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