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This Beautiful Life: A Novel

This Beautiful Life: A Novel

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This Beautiful Life: A Novel

4/5 (181 valoraciones)
230 página
4 horas
Aug 2, 2011


"ThisBeautiful Life is a gripping, potent and blisteringly well-written story offamily, dilemma, and consequence. . . . I read this book with white-knuckledurgency, and I finished it in tears. Helen Schulman is an absolutely brilliantnovelist." —Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love

Theevents of a single night shatter one family’s sense of security and identity inthis provocative and deeply affecting domestic drama from Helen Schulman, theacclaimed author of A Day at the Beach and Out of Time. In thetradition of Lionel Shriver, Sue Miller, and Laura Moriarty, Schulman crafts abrilliantly observed portrait of parenting and modern life, cunningly exploringour most deeply-held convictions and revealing the enduring strengths thatemerge in the face of crisis.

Aug 2, 2011

Sobre el autor

Helen Schulman writes fiction, nonfiction, and screenplays. Her last novel, This Beautiful Life, was a New York Times bestseller. She is a Professor of Writing and Fiction Chair at the MFA program at The New School. She lives in New York City with her family.

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Dentro del libro

Cotizaciones principales

  • Her mouth filled the screen. Purple lip gloss, clear braces.

  • The responsibilities of these roles are enormous. Right now, in the intermission between acts, he has no part to play. He belongs to no one. He feels good. He wants to preserve that feeling for a while longer.

  • Liz did more commuting here in the city than she’d ever done in Ithaca. Pick-ing up and dropping off. Picking up and dropping off. It sounded like the lexicon of drug dealers.

  • They had a lot of time to kill, and it was showing. There were rips in the fragile membrane encasing their camaraderie. They could easily get into a fight or something.

  • In the dark, Liz’s heart went out to Sherrie Cavanaugh. Like Liz, Sherrie Cavanaugh was an art lover who didn’t have a job, and was bungling being a mother.

Vista previa del libro

This Beautiful Life - Helen Schulman



Her mouth filled the screen. Purple lip gloss, clear braces.

Still think I’m too young?

She leaned over, the fixed lens of the camera catching a tiny smattering of blemishes on her cheek, like a comet’s spray. Her hair had been bleached white, with long blond roots, and most of it was pulled back and up into a chunky ponytail above the three plastic hoops climbing the rim of her ear.

The song began to play, Beyoncé. I love to love you, baby. She stepped aside, revealing her room in all its messy glory. Above the bed was a painting; the central image was a daisy. A large lava lamp bubbled and gooed on the nightstand.

She was giggling offstage. Suddenly, the screen was a swirl of green plaid. Filmstrips of color in knife pleats. Her short skirt swayed along with her round hips. A little roll of ivory fat nestled above the waistband. She wore a white tank top, which she took off, her hands quickly finding the cups of her black bra. The breasts inside were small, and at first she covered them with her palms, fingers splayed like scallop shells. Then she unhooked the bra in the front and they popped out as if on springs. Her hands did a little fan dance as they reached below her hemline and lifted up her skirt.

She’d done all of this for his benefit. To please him. To prove him wrong. She reached out for the little toy baseball bat and the next part was hard to watch, even if you knew what was coming.

Except it wasn’t.


As with so many things of consequence, it all began with a party.

Two parties. Both of Elizabeth Bergamot’s children had parties to go to. Jake, the eldest—his longish brown hair suddenly grazing his collarbones, his eyes the color of muddled mint—was on his own that night, of course. His party was up in the Bronx, in Riverdale, somewhere near his school. He was fifteen and a half the previous Friday. It was pretty ridiculous that the Bergamots continued to celebrate this increasingly minor milestone—his half birthday—with half a cake and half a present. Richard, Liz’s husband, had started the whole business ten years earlier, when he’d surprised them both by bringing home half a deck of cards that year, the other twenty-six miraculously appearing overnight under the boy’s pillow.

He’s five and a half on Cinco de Mayo, Richard had said, by way of explanation. Is there a better cause for celebration?

Since the gesture was so touching, so sweet and fatherly, and Richard was a Californian by birth, Liz had trusted him on the import of such things, Mexican things. Plus, it seemed fun—a fun family tradition! It was what Liz had always hungered after despite generations of contrary evidence: relatives as respite, home as haven, a retreat from the rest of the dangerous, damaging world.

Last Friday, this Cinco de Mayo, Jake got half a set of car keys in the morning over his Lucky Charms. The true key to the kingdom was to be delivered, along with tuition for driver’s ed, on his actual birthday, in November.

But for tonight’s party, Jake would have to rely on some cocktail of public transportation—bus, subway, bus, subway, subway, cab—although there was always the possibility that some other love-addled mom like Liz would drive him home. Liz herself was otherwise occupied. It was his job to figure it out.

As Liz watched him hunch over his breakfast (two bowls of cereal, a yogurt, and a peanut butter sandwich), it seemed to her that Jake had grown several inches in just those seven days. The curve of his back was so long. It was as if, suddenly, three extra vertebrae had been added to the staircase of his spine. These days, it often seemed to Liz that Jake grew before her eyes, like kudzu maybe, the way he had as an infant, when Richard, a still awe-stricken young father, used to take pictures of him as he slept, in an effort to document the phenomenon, as if Jake were Bigfoot or a UFO.

As for the other kid—Coco, her baby—she would require parental accompaniment to her midget soirée: a six-year-old’s birthday, at the Plaza Hotel, no less; a sleepover! For Liz’s whole life, prior to drinks in the Oak Room last year when Richard was interviewing for his gig at the university, she had been inside the Plaza only when she was in Midtown and in need of a public restroom. As Coco’s designated lady-in-waiting, she saw tonight as her night to howl. This year Coco was in kindergarten for the second time, a condition of her admission to Wildwood Lower when they moved to the city. A private school. An apartment in Manhattan. The Plaza. Born and raised in the Bronx, in Co-op City, Liz couldn’t always believe her new life.

In Ithaca, where they’d lived pretty fucking happily the last ten years—Richard and his meteoric rise at Cornell, Liz’s dipping in and out of the Art History Department, the campus’s dramatically stunning landscape, the low-key community vibe—irrepressible little Coco had been the life of the party. Here in New York, Coco was both a bad influence and intensely popular. In the last seven months she had had more invitations, and to swankier spots (boat rides around Manhattan, screenings at Soho House, grab-what-you-cans at Dylan’s Candy Bar) than Liz had received in her entire lifetime.

Coco was one of three adopted Chinese daughters in her class—one of whom was also named Coco. Their Coco was now Coco B., the way Liz had been Elizabeth C. (née Cohen) all her grade-school life. The whole purpose of naming Coco Coco had been to avoid the initial, and yet there, like a wart at the end of a nose, it was. Poor Jake had been Jake B. so long and so often, in Ithaca, and now in New York, that some of the kids at Wildwood Upper had taken to calling him Jacoby—like those ambulance-chaser lawyers who, Liz was amazed to find, after all these years still ran their ads in the subways: Hit by a truck? Call Jacoby and Meyers. (What if you just felt like you’d been hit by a truck? Liz wondered. What if you just felt like you’d been hit by a truck day after day? Could you call Jacoby and Meyers then?)

Tall, thin Jake was lanky now, with shoulders. Men’s shoulders. When did he get such shoulders? Liz wondered, as he sidled past her to put his cereal bowl in the sink in the galley kitchen, where she was pouring her second cup of coffee. And then, when he brushed past her again, Liz resisted the urge to touch them. Instead, as he grabbed his backpack, called out, Bye, guys, and hurried down the long, skinny hallway that led to the apartment’s front door, she mentally dropped a dollar in the shrink jar, the imaginary fund she kept for the future therapy Jake would require as a result of her outsize adoration.

Bye-bye, sweetie! Have a great day, Liz yelled down the hall.

Hang tough, slugger, said Richard from the other room, perhaps ironically. One couldn’t always tell.

Jake was rushing to meet his friends at the Ninety-sixth Street subway station and he apparently did not have time to kiss her goodbye. The commute was very convenient, although this would change when they moved again in the summer. Right now, Jake and a bunch of other Wildwood high schoolers from the Upper West Side schlepped up to the lush and lovely Riverdale campus en masse, and Liz was grateful he was part of a crowd. I travel with the guys, Mom, he said, not in annoyance per se, but to reassure her, whenever Liz gave voice to some quasi-ridiculous worry. What if you get mugged? What if terrorists attack again?

In Ithaca, where they’d lived most of his life, Jake biked on his own from fourth grade onward, from school to Collegetown to Ithaca Falls. He’d take Ithaca transit, just like Nabokov had, whenever he ventured up the hill to meet Richard for lunch on campus, placing his little silver two-wheeler on the rack on the bus’s front bumper alongside the big ones belonging to the college students and the earthier, crunchy professors (the ones who lived off the grid). In Ithaca, Jake had often been on his own, unless Liz was ferrying a Boy Scout troop full of his friends to the cool, blue stage of the lake for swim practice, and none of them, not Richard, not Jake, not Liz, had ever given this healthy independence a second thought.

Jake was fifteen and a half last Friday, which meant almost sixteen. As the door slammed behind him, that fact hit her, as it did every once in a while, out of the blue.

Richard, Liz said, walking out into the hall, still in the old KISS T-shirt she liked to sleep in and her pajama bottoms. Do you think that the way I feel about Jakey being a teenager is similar to what it’s like to awaken from being drugged and find that an organ trafficker has stolen your kidney?

That’s exactly what I was thinking, said Richard. He was standing in the living room, at the dining table he used as his desk, sorting through piles of papers, cutting a ridiculously handsome figure, Liz thought, for that hour of the morning. No matter the level of dishabille the rest of the household suffered—Liz sometimes wearing the T-shirt she’d slept in to take Coco to school—Richard looked fine: freshly shaven, crisp white shirt, sports coat, black jeans, green eyes bright, his silvering hair cut close to his well-formed head. Making order out of chaos.

Their apartment was a month-to-month sublease; the living room was living, dining, and den, plus Richard’s office, all rolled into one. The gleaming brand-new faculty housing the university had dangled in front of them, part of its full-blown Richard-recruitment package, wasn’t completed yet.

"Coco and I will be going straight to the Plaza after pickup, Liz called out. She was back in the kitchen arranging Coco’s meal. She said to the Plaza in a faux-snooty voice, both impressed and embarrassed by how impressed she was by the x factor of their evening. After school, Jake will probably stay up in the Bronx anyway, so it’s okay if you work late." As if Richard ever came home at a decent hour.

He’s not a kid anymore, Lizzie, he’ll be fine, Richard said.

He’ll probably grab something to eat on Johnson Avenue, or hang out in a friend’s basement waiting for the party to start, Liz said. She stood on tiptoe to reach the microwave oven and zapped the Tater Tots. Coco’s hot breakfast.

Jake’s party was in a mansion in the Fieldston section of the Bronx, that much Liz knew. Her son’s Bronx was not her Bronx. Marjorie says the party is definitely a chaperoned event, with parents ready and eager to taste-test the punch bowl. Liz had been assured this much over the phone the night before by her tenth-grade-class source, a fast-talking, well-meaning real estate agent mother.

Deep Throat, Richard said, as she handed him the Tater Tots and a toaster waffle for Coco, who was already stuffing organic strawberries the size of golf balls into her exquisite little mouth.

Deep Throat, Liz murmured. A nom de guerre in the mother wars. Richard, that’s perfect.

Coco, how much do you think you cost me in strawberries a year? Richard asked. These things are like six dollars a box and she must eat a box a day, right, Lizzie?

Daddy, said Coco, her wide smile pink with berry jam.

At least one box, said Liz, sometimes two, although thank God she’s eating something not ‘white food,’ she said.

I eat not ‘white food,’ said Coco.

Bagels, pasta, waffles, said Liz, listing Coco’s meals of choice. Dumplings.

Tater Tots, crowed Coco, picking one up in victory. They’re brown.

Indeed they are, Richard said, cherry-picking the darker ones out of her hand and popping them into his own mouth.

He sort of listened now as Liz went on and on about her anxieties about the evening—What should I wear? Hippie chic? said Richard. Should we really be accepting such a lavish invitation? Why not? It will be fun for both of you. It was part of their daily rhythm, him soothing her while glancing at the headlines of the New York Times. Every once in a while, Richard helped Coco with her math homework as well, by eating more of her Tater Tots. Two minus one equals a very hungry Coco, said Richard, while assembling his breakfast shake at the other end of the table: bananas, peanut butter, protein powder, Matcha green tea—tea that matchas your eyes, Liz told him when he first brought it home. He exuded competence. He was a self-cleaning oven. And even after all these years, Liz was not immune to the power of his good looks.

One of the moms asked me to be on the Multicultural Festival committee for next fall—do you think I should? asked Liz.

Wildwood prided itself on diversity, which was one of the reasons she and Richard had picked it last year. In Coco’s class there were five other Asian girls, an African American boy, a West Indian boy with a lyrical lilt in his voice—Liz volunteered on class trips just to hear him speak—one tow-headed born-wearing-a-blazer WASP, and the rest a motley crew of half-Jewish kids. Like Jake.

Might be a way to meet people, said Richard, nodding.

Marjorie says, ‘Sure there’s diversity. There’s millionaires . . . and then there’s billionaires.’

I’m glad you’ve made a friend, honey, said Richard. As if it were possible that she might not have.

Marjorie was divorced and had suffered, and therefore was imbued with enough compassion to welcome in a newcomer. A tiny, wiry pinwheel of a person, she also lived on the Upper West Side, hence the affinity between the two mothers, and she’d been exporting her own kids to the Bronx to Wildwood for years, so she definitely had wisdom to share. Her twins were named Henry and James. Fraternal, they still looked an awful lot alike, although Henry was lankier and his features were finely etched, while James’s face looked similar but thicker, as if it had been stretched by Silly Putty.

Henry, the nice twin, had become Jake’s best friend in a New York minute. He was one of those kids who always had a broken arm. But soulful, Liz thought.

It was Henry who introduced Jake to McHenry, Davis, and Django. His posse. Liz was relieved that Jake had so quickly made friends who could guide him through this foreign, urban terrain.

Okay, Coco-bear, brush your teeth and grab your stuff, said Richard. It was one of the rare days he was taking her to school. He’d usually left for the office by this point, but because the girls were spending the night out, he was adding a half hour of quality time with his kid by escorting her on the morning commute.

Liz was standing like a sentry at the door, Coco’s backpack in hand. C’mon Coco, she called. Get the lead out. She could hear the water in the bathroom sink running.

What do you have up today? asked Richard as he organized his briefcase.

Yoga, food-shop, packing for tonight, bills, the car inspection, those stupid summer camp health forms . . . stuff, she listed a little defensively. There was plenty to do.

Coco came loping down the hall. Bring my Chinese pajamas, she said as she offered her forehead to Liz for a goodbye smooch.

You got it, Liz said. Then she leaned over to Richard. Aren’t you forgetting something? She said this every morning, and once in a while, like today, elicited a less-than-abstracted kiss.

It was a pleasure to see them go, and to close the door behind them.

It was heaven really to be alone in that cramped apartment. And yet, as she had felt almost every day since they’d moved in, when she came back from dropping Coco off at school, or yoga, or errands, or coffee, Liz took one look at her messy home and was overwhelmed by how much there was to do and how little she wanted to do it. Finding that first step into an amorphous day, a day without bones, was always the hardest.

She walked over to her laptop. It was on the coffee table in front of the couch, where she’d left it late last night. She typed in feigenbaum/blogspot.com.

Hours later, most of her tasks accomplished and tucked away behind her, Liz sat on Wildwood Lower’s marble front steps with her old duffel and Coco’s Barbie Overnight Bag resting between her knees, her head tilted back to capture the warmth of the spring sun. A yummy buttery light permeated her closed eyelids—all winter long she had craved this. The school was located in the East Nineties, between the smoky gray branches of trees that rimmed Central Park on Fifth Avenue and the bright yellow splashes of taxi traffic east on Madison. It was housed in a limestone fortress, a former home of some robber baron, probably destined to go to a hedge fund guy in the near future when the Wildwood capital campaign hit its mark and they broke ground on a new building. She was early for pickup, ever eager to find out if Coco’s day had been thumbs-up or thumbs-down—it had been a roller-coaster transition to Manhattan life for all of them. Except Richard.

Although, through years of experience, Liz knew that if all the calm, focused energy he had displayed day in and day out these last few months were to be translated into a normal person’s emotions, the result would actually look something like excitement and anxiety.

They made you an offer you can’t refuse, Liz had said, late some fragrant, sultry night the summer before, back in Ithaca, after they’d had sex, when they were sitting barefoot on their front porch drinking beers like kids, talking over the pros and cons of taking the job, their children safely asleep inside. It was obvious how much he’d wanted it.

It’s not the same city you grew up in, Richard had said, to reassure her.

It was a thought she’d held on to.

Just think of all the museums and the galleries, he said.

He was right about that, Liz thought as she waited for Coco—the Upper East Side in this new moneyed century was not the New York she’d grown up in at all. Hyacinths in spun sugar colors bloomed in the window boxes of the town houses across the street. Cherry blossoms wept snowy petals in the breeze. The stoop she sat on was a far cry from the benches she’d hung out on in Section

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Lo que piensa la gente sobre This Beautiful Life

181 valoraciones / 40 Reseñas
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Reseñas de lectores

  • (2/5)
    This book lost me from hello, and whilst at times it made an effort to win me back I never really bought it.
    The premise is good one, its what caught my attention, and I was excited to receive an uncorrected proof from Waterstones. Examining the worst challenges a family can face from the relative safety of a book can make for very thought provoking reading. But this is no "We Need to Talk About Kevin."
    I felt the main barrier to me connecting with this book was the characters, and the lives they led. Private school, high society, power jobs, spoilt children...there was nothing there that I could relate to, and more than that there was no humility. Possibly this is to show that even family disasters can happen in the "perfect" segment of society...but that isn't how it translates to paper. That side of it left me cold, it reminded me of a certain strain of chick-lit that has never attracted me. The characters came across as contrived and thoroughly dislikeable. As a result, I didn't care what happened to any of them - in my mind they all deserved a poor outcome.
    Basically, this book failed to move me in the way I had hoped it would. Its probably more suited to women who are outgrowing chick-lit, venturing into something with a bit more meat but who need the security blanket of that genre.
  • (1/5)
    This book was very disappointing. The writing was horrible. The ending was ridiculous. Didn't care for most of the characters.
  • (3/5)
    An ideal family. Lizzie Bergamot is certain that despite her family’s lack of fortune that they’ve got it all and it’s only getting better by the minute. The Bergamot’s recent move to the big city was the result of a very lucrative job offer for her husband and it’s side effects could be seen everywhere. From the overnight Mommy-Daughter spa-esque treatments at the Plaza Hotel to the very prestigious schools for both of her children, Coco and Jake. It also meant new territory and potential hazards no one in the family had encountered before, but Lizzie never expected those hazards to be played out inside the walls of her own home. Least of all in the bedroom of her teenage son Jake. Suddenly the walls of their perfect life come crumbling down and the entire family is left with scars that may never heal.This is by far one of my greatest fears. My son or daughter doing something so damaging that it alters their entire life just by clicking the mouse. People do things on the internet everyday that they’d never admit to, things they’d never do in a public place and unfortunately children & teenagers especially are even more prone to push the limits. It’s even more tantalizing to when it’s uncharted territory that can be incredibly intriguing to a curious and often naive young person. Unfortunately all it takes is one click, one photo or video forwarded to a friend, and suddenly your world is turned on it’s head.That’s exactly what happened to Jake Bergamot when he received a video from a thirteen year old girl he knew from school. Once he’d forwarded it to a friend moments after receiving it the domino effect began and the lives of everyone involved were changed forever. Everyone from the girl who sent it, Daisy, to his little sister Coco, who wasn’t old enough to understand the video she accidentally discovered on her mother’s computer. I’m positive I’m not alone in my concern over this matter. Any parent I know who has children growing up today is aware of the risks surrounding computer use by the children in our lives. What was interesting about This Beautiful Life was reading how the situation played out and the ripple affect it had on nearly everyone in the book. It nearly destroys their family and in many ways that was hard to read, but it certainly gave me a greater understanding about what to do and not do in this particular circumstance; I only hope I never have to deal with it.Overall I felt like This Beautiful Life was very well written and the opportunity to be a “fly on the wall” so to speak was an invaluable lesson. There were times during my reading though that I felt dragged a bit. Helen Schulman does explain in an interview with Brian Gesko of The Paris Review Daily that, “My characters are human, warts and all…”. Well, in many cases I felt like I simply didn’t need to know the every minute detail of her character’s lives. Yes, those things make them real, but in some cases it definitely slowed my reading. That being said, I still absolutely enjoyed the story overall and I’d be open to reading more by Schulman in the future.This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman is the telling of a tragic situation that hopefully many families will be able to avoid in our technology laden world. As a parent it can be difficult to balance the need children growing up today have to be connected technologically speaking with the potential for danger that lurks a few mouse clicks away. In the case of Lizzie Bergamot and her son Jake there were so many things I would have done differently, but as a parent I also know that you simply do the very best you can and hope your children make the right choices. This Beautiful Life was an eye opening read that I think parents everywhere could benefit from reading and one I’d definitely recommend.Originally reviewed and copyrighted at my site There's A Book.
  • (3/5)
    This story really shows what can happen in this time of the internet. Nothing is safe as it can be sent electronically. once you hit the send button it is out of your control and the kids now don't realize that. They just put everything out there on the internet. This book is a reminder you need to stop and think before you hit the send button.
  • (4/5)
    Picked up this book from the library about 10 minutes before I discovered a similar "scandal" was unfolding at our High School! How timely and topical!

    The author brings the reader into the family of a teenage boy who receives, unsolicited, a sexting video from a grade 8 girl. What happens next, and how it impacts the boy, his parents, and their lives unfolds quickly, and rather unevenly.

    I found the author spent too much time with the mother/adopted daughter and the husband and his business mission during their day leading up to the incident. It just dragged on and was not really relevant to the story. It felt like the author was trying to pull in some other social issues she wanted to address, fleshing out the novel in a way that was not needed. A side story about the mom's obsession with an ex-boyfriend's blog went nowhere and rang false. The story also gave short-shrift to the young girl's side of the story, jumping forward to her at the end in a very unsatisfying way. That said, it is a very thought-provoking subject, and I am looking forward to our book-club discussion!
  • (5/5)
    its very wonderful thing i like :) very great aap
  • (5/5)
    suryakhethavath erqz 1 a b c d e f g
  • (5/5)
    Must read, it is wonderful. Thankyou for writing.
  • (2/5)
    No plot. No moral No ending. Glad I read it on Scribd. Damn sure would have hated to waste extra money on it

  • (5/5)
  • (1/5)
    I hate dis app
  • (4/5)
  • (4/5)
  • (5/5)
    moga dapat merubah hidup saya
  • (5/5)
    nyc for new generation teen agers
  • (5/5)
    Just ♥
  • (3/5)
    Thats really good...
  • (1/5)

    Thats cool
  • (3/5)
    Narrated by Hillary Huber. This is really more about the internal processes that parents Richard and Liz and their teenage son Jake go through in the wake of the sex video scandal. Although the story is a little too navel-gazing for me, I enjoyed Huber's performance as she voices each character's inner turmoil with emotional depth, giving the listener an intimate experience with the Bergamot family's story.
  • (4/5)

    Esto le resultó útil a 1 persona

    This isn't a type of novel I normally read, but the subject matter sounded like a dilemma that unfortunately is becoming almost commonplace. I was curious about how a family would survive it.Richard and Liz Bergamot have a 15 year old son, Jake, and a 6 year old daughter, Coco. Coco was adopted from China. They had lived happily in Ithaca, NY for some time when Richard accepted a dream job in New York City. Settling in Manhattan was difficult for Liz and Jake, who longed for the simpler life in Ithaca. The children were in private schools with wealthy families' children and Liz struggled to fit in. Only Richard was profoundly happy, and possibly Coco.Then Jake goes to a party with his friends, gets in over his head because he drinks too much and tries to be one of the guys. He later receives a sexy video email from a younger girl, and does absolutely the wrong thing - he forwards it to his friend. The effect of this mistake on all of them, but especially Jake, is traumatic. The reaction of each member of the family is shown to the reader, who becomes increasingly afraid for them all. I fear some readers will decide it's Manhattan or the wealthy kids who are to blame for what happens, but the same thing could have happened in Ithaca or any other town in America. Like sexting, it is happening all around us.We all ruefully recall our own dumb teenage mistakes, but now those mistakes happen all too publicly. Thanks to cell phones, computers, and all the other electronic gadgets most kids have access to, the pictures and words that can be terribly damaging are broadcast all over the world. Meanwhile parenting, always a tough job, increases in difficulty.If you have the stomach to read about a parent's worst nightmare, you will want to read This Beautiful Life. The book is insightful and delves deeply into this family's journey through that nightmare. I received the book from Amazon Vine.

    Esto le resultó útil a 1 persona

  • (4/5)
    I like very much !!
  • (5/5)

    Esto le resultó útil a 1 persona

    a gripping novel that explores the perils of parenting and growing up in a"wired" world.

    Esto le resultó útil a 1 persona

  • (1/5)

    Esto les resultó útil a 3 personas

    The Bergamots are a typical upper-middle class family who recently relocated to New York City from Ithaca. There's Liz, a wound-way-too-tight, former art historian turned stay-at-home, semi-helicopter parent of a mom who has nothing better to do but e-stalk an ex-boyfriend's blog and obsess over whether she loves her kids too much.

    She's married to Richard, whose prestigious and high-powered job at fictitious Astor University is the reason the Bergamot family relocated to New York City in the first place. There's adorable, spirited six year old Coco, whom Liz and Richard adopted from China and who has a coterie of friends at her swanky private school.

    And then ... there's 15 year old Jake, just doing his best to fit in with his friends at his new school. He's on the cusp of the awkward beginnings of independence while trying to be cool and trying unsuccessfully to get the attention of Audrey, a girl he likes but who happens to be otherwise attached.

    As I said, Jake's a typical 15 year old guy, with hormones firing on all cylinders and then some. So after he and 13 year old Daisy hook up at a party after too much beer, and he (rightfully so) tells her she's too young for such shenanigans, Daisy tries wooing him back by emailing him a video of herself in a compromising position. (Read between the lines here, folks, as I'm trying to avoid the spam and Google hits from getting even crazier than usual).

    What does Jake do? Well, he's a little confused and perplexed and amused by said video ... but he does what any 15 year old boy would do: he forwards it to his best friend.

    Who forwards it to his twin brother. Who forwards it to his best friend. And then, well, you can guess what happens. What poor naive Daisy (who is neither poor nor naive) thought would only be for Jake's eyes winds up going viral - and it's all Jake's fault.

    This Beautiful Life focuses on the aftermath and the consequences that occur as a result of the video's explosion into cyberspace, and the destructive effect it has on the Bergamot family. Because of one mistake and one split-second decision, each person's sense of security and what is truly a "beautiful life" (this family doesn't want for anything, believe you me) is shaken. It's a compelling premise, and even though the novel is set in 2003 when all this was still uncharted territory, it resonates with parents and anyone who cares for kids because nine years later, we've seen where this Pandora's Box has led.

    That being said, as much as I thought I would like this book (and wanted to), I felt that This Beautiful Life had too many issues in regard to the undeveloped characters, the writing style, and the plot. Let's start with the characters, shall we?

    They could not have possibly been more stereotypical. I'll be blunt here: I'm tired of "yummy mummies" (an adjective/noun combo special that I cannot stand) whose playdates with their adorable cherubs consist of going to tea party sleepovers at The fucking Plaza Hotel and who whine about the headmistress of the school where their husbands are "legacy" alums, and how hard their goddamn lives are because they can't manage to decide if their kid should be taking ballet or African dance lessons, and who bitch about the cost of organic frozen strawberries. I hate people like that - which means that in reading This Beautiful Life, Liz Bergamot and her so-called friends were not people I cared to spend much time with.

    (I do think the setting of 2003 worked against the novel in that aspect, at least for me. In these recessionary times when so many people continue to struggle, reading about people with lifestyles like that is kind of a turnoff to me.)

    Liz and Richard's reactions to Daisy's video and their behavior in the aftermath of their son receiving and forwarding it struck me as ... maddening. I get wanting to protect your kid and being angry at the other party, and I know all too many parents carry the mantle of "my kid can do no wrong." I understand that. But there's absolutely no acceptance of personal responsibility here and no culpability on the part of the parents, no self-examination of what within themselves or within their family led to this. They don't go into counseling; they barely discuss the incident at all. They just disintegrate into themselves, which is sad and perhaps a realistic reaction, but a missed opportunity, in my view.

    Not to mention, Richard's reaction as a father while watching this video of a 13 year old prancing to Beyonce was enough to give me the heebie-jeebies:

    "And for all the video's dismal raunch, its tawdriness, for all its sexual immaturity and unknowingness, there is something about the way this girl has revealed herself, the way that she has offered herself, truly stripped herself bare, that is brave and powerful and potent and ridiculous and self-immolating and completely nuts. It speaks to him. Is he crazy? He feels crazier in this moment than he has ever felt in his life. He feels touched by it. And because the video is all of these things and more, because in some way it is truly the literal essence of what it means to be naked, because this Daisy makes herself completely vulnerable and open and 100 percent exposed, it also breaks Richard's heart." (pg. 118)

    Stop right there and get thee to the nearest psychologist, dude. THE GIRL IS ALL OF 13 and making a suggestive video to get attention from a boy! I'm sorry, but there's nothing brave or empowering about that and the fact that this Dad is trying to convince me as a reader that there IS ... well, that's the sort of thing that makes my personal Creepmeter turn purple.

    The overall writing style of was, in my opinion, somewhat bland and at times, confusing. For example, while waiting in their lawyer's office, Richard realizes that the lawyer

    "holds [his] son's future in his hands. This is a little like waiting for a neurosurgeon, Richard thinks, and then stops the thought, blocks it. The analogy is too terrible and too frightening." (pg. 107).

    Huh? Why? What am I missing here? (Richard's father died when Richard was young, but of a heart attack, not of a brain tumor or something, which would make this more logical.) There are several other head-scratching, what-the-? instances where this sort of thing occurred, so many things left unexplained, the ending rushed and seemingly tacked on as an afterthought. Even the symbolism and connection to The Great Gatsby seemed to be gratuitous, thrown in there as a tangent, when it could have been much stronger and emphasized.

    Speaking of gratuitous, within the writing itself there are too many phrases and scenes that seem included for the shock value factor. This might sound a little hypocritical coming from me, as I fully admit to dropping an f-bomb or two on occasion, but Schulman's prose in this novel tends to include such off-putting phrases like "In Ithaca, where they lived pretty fucking happily the last ten years ..." (pg. 5) and nine pages later, "She reveled in the privacy. That was life in Ithaca, and it did not suck." (pg. 14). There's a description on page 175 of Liz "in yoga pants, a wife-beater." (What's wrong with saying a tank top?) Again, I'm no prude, but I found these word choices unnecessary.

    Ultimately, in my opinion, I felt that there were too many instances throughout this novel where either the writing style or the characters' actions detracted from what promised to be a truly provocative story, for all the right reasons.

    The one exception was with the character of Jake. I thought that Schulman captured Jake and his peers very well. Their conversations and actions, their angst and their desire to fit in, felt authentic to me. Even though I don't have a 15 year old, my work brings me into contact with many of them and the descriptions and the dialogue seemed real. It almost made me wonder if This Beautiful Life would have worked better - or have been more powerful - as more of a young adult focused novel. As it is, it seems to be one targeted for a parental audience, one that would strike fear into any parent's heart that this could happen to any of us.

    But I think it misses the mark on that because these characters are too unrelatable personally and their 2003 lifestyle too distant from the 2012 reality that so many of us have. I can't imagine living anywhere near the kind of lifestyle that these people do. They're nothing like me. So if the theme is about the disintegration of a family after such an event and them wringing their hands over what they potentially stand to lose, then I'm not going to be able to identify with that because so many people have lost everything, you know? I know I'm harping on that, but I truly could not get past that aspect of this novel.

    We also know much more now in terms of sexting and the legal ramifications, and it's hard to place oneself back almost a decade ago. But if the message is one of a cautionary one, one directed to a teenage audience, maybe that would have been better reinforced if the story itself had been told through Jake's eyes only ... just like the video was meant to be.

    I wished I liked This Beautiful Life more than I did. Still, I'm grateful to TLC Book Tours for including me on the tour and for Harper Perennial for sending me a copy of the book in exchange for my (probably all too) honest review, for which I wasn't compensated in any way.

    Esto les resultó útil a 3 personas

  • (3/5)
    Interesting look into a family when trouble strikes. A solid read.
  • (2/5)
    Ifound this book to be rather slow. Fifteen year old Jake Bergamot recieves and then sends an explicit video that an eight grade girl sends him and the video goes viral.The scandal that ensues threatens the happiness of the entire family.
  • (4/5)
    A book for todays generation that deals with what happens when a teenage girl forwards a sexually explicit email attachement of herself to a guy she is keen on. He without thinking forwards it on to a friend and soon it is all over the Internet. The book deals with how it affects the son who received it, his six year old sister, and his parents and their relationship.. They have moved into New York from a country area, and the husband is much more interested in his career and making money than caring for his family. His wife has given up her career to come to New York and is trying to nurture and support the family. This book , to me,. coud have been better. It promised so much. The beginning was set up well but I felt the end was rushed. There were parts where you got a glimpse of what it could have been, and those parts were moving However it did succeed in making me think about this issue that todays young generation faces.
  • (2/5)
    I was disappointed in this book. The premise should have made for an interesting story but it just didn't Get executed well. After a slow start, the central event, a sexting email from an 8th grade girl to the boy she has a crush on that goes viral, is presented well. Then, the effects on the family...just doesn't tie together very well. I think this could have been done better and kind of wish the author could have a "do-over." Doesn't live up to its potential.
  • (4/5)
    Once, the Bergamots were the darlings of the Manhattan jet set. Transplanted there by virtue of a job offer Richard Bergamot could not refuse, they packed up and left their happy, small town, suburban lifestyle for the fast pace of the city and a future of financial triumphs. Richard loved his new job. Liz loved her new found lifestyle of the “rich and famous”. She gave up her ambitions in favor of her husband’s achievements. Both have Ph.D’s. Both appear to be interested first, in the world of Botox and vacations, rather than their children. They live in Charles Murray’s bubble world of the established, mixing primarily with their own kind and moving in their own circle of comfort and prosperity.Regarding the move, there is no evidence that the needs, or effect of the move on the children, were given much consideration. This move would provide them all with many creature comforts and advantages which would make the move worthwhile. The subtle side effects of this move on their behavior, after being uprooted and placed in a cauldron of anonymity, so different from the warmth and community of their old neighborhood is largely ignored. Everyone is too busy enjoying the affluence.The Bergamots are currently living in a temporary apartment provided by the University that hired Richard, until the school’s new upscale residences are completed. Richard is senior executive vice chancellor of the Astor University of the City of New York. Richard’s ambition is to take a blighted area and turn it into a state of the art campus for the university, creating jobs and affordable housing at the same time. This sounds noble until you find out that Richard has helped the neighborhood become more blighted by buying the parking lot that used to service the area, refusing to renew leases among other things, thereby insuring its decline in order to help guarantee the project’s approval.One evening, Liz takes Coco, their adopted Chinese daughter, to a clandestine, child’s birthday party, at the Plaza Hotel, where the mothers proceed to drink themselves into a stupor, and Coco proceeds to bounce from bed to bed for most of the night. Liz returns home exhausted and with a hangover. She neither notices the discomfort of her son Jake, from his previous night out, nor is she in any condition to help him even if she had acknowledged it. The book is a study in parents who, from the outside, appear to hover around their children, and yet, in reality, they neglect to pay much attention to the more salient aspects of parenting, like the teaching of values and ethics. Children learn from the example and often, perhaps unwittingly, the parental example is often shallow and mercenary because the parents are unaware of how closely they are being watched.By and large, Richard is too busy climbing, placing one hand over the other on the ladder of success, and Liz is too busy trying to fit in and be cool, like the other mothers, enjoying the high life, going to the best restaurants, the newest shows, enjoying the latest fashions, to realize when things subtly start to go awry. The lifestyle they enjoy seems extremely superficial. However, the children are provided with every advantage, even if they are somewhat neglected when it comes to moral development, and the finer nuances of their occasional behavioral aberrations, which gave evidence to their somewhat troubled adjustment, often went unnoticed. Coco, only 6 years old, is a typically, if not also overactive, mischievous young child. Jake is 15, and a victim of his puberty and his hormones, which when coupled with the change in his environment, confuse him and offer him no ideal opportunities for explanations or means to address his concerns. The friends he has chosen appear to be very different from the boy Jake used to be, a boy who would prefer to be back in his old neighborhood, riding his bike and experiencing the wind blowing through his hair as he rode downhill with his eyes closed, rather than standing on a corner smoking weed and drinking beer, illegally. He is essentially a good boy, a naïve young man, trying to make his way in the world of the teenager, fraught with all the dangers that face them, chief among them being the internet and the lack of restraint often exhibited by kids because they simply don’t know better.On the evening that his dad works late and his mom parties, Jake also looks for entertainment. He is being trusted to travel on his own and come home on his own since the parents are otherwise going to be occupied. When the party he intended to attend with his friends is canceled, he crashes another, and after the experience there, his world, forever after, is changed. He meets Daisy there and they sort of hook up. He rejects her, in the end, and in the morning he receives a very lewd, sexually explicit video from her. Instead of deleting it, in his shock and with immature naïveté and confusion, he foolishly forwards it to a friend, hoping for some input. He has no one to go to for guidance, unfortunately, or this would not have happened. Of course, the video goes viral, and it is the beginning of the end for Jake, his family, some of his friends, and most of all, for Daisy.How will this tragedy be resolved? Where do you place the blame? Is it Daisy’s fault since she, with premeditation, sent the video which has now been classified as pornography? Is it Jake’s, although he never asked for it and was shocked by it, because he sent it onward? The repercussions are monumental. Liz falls into an emotional decline. Richard loses his position and has to take a forced leave. Jake is suspended. Daisy is shamed but signing autographs. She has become famous. Jake is somewhere between a murderer and a martyr on the scale of guilt. Is this tragedy the fault of society, parenting, affluence, arrogance? Will the victims learn from this experience or continue to make the same mistakes, pursuing the wrong, often selfish goals?This is not a wonderful piece of literature but this book will give rise to many discussions on cyber-bullying, arrogance, the internet, political correctness, diversity, “blending” of cultures, class advantages or disadvantages, the lack of rules and proper discipline in modern homes, the effects of neglect and lack of parental involvement, the dangers wrought by too much money and the dangers wrought by the lack of it.I would give this novel three stars except for the fact that I think it is more important as a tool for discussion than for scholarship, so it warrants four. If it leads to meaningful conversation and solutions, to current parenting issues and juvenile behavior or lack thereof, with or without the involvement of cyberspace, it will be more worthwhile than its value as literature.
  • (3/5)
    Review haiku:Oh now I get it.Rich people in ManhattanAre very sad. Wah.
  • (3/5)
    I had such high hopes for this book thinking that the concept was modern and intriguing. I had a feeling that I had read in the press about something similar happening to a family and initially was unsure whether it was fiction that had been based on fact. The structure of the book begins with a chapter each from Liz (mother), Richard (father) and Jake (son). The first two are a bit pointless and do nothing to inspire you to continue reading sadly. However, I continued in the hope it would get better and it does; marginally. The blurb is truly the best part of this novel though and the next stages in the story are not as exhilarating or urgent as the endorsements would have you believe.