This Beautiful Life

This Beautiful Life

2.9 60
by Helen Schulman
     
 

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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

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Audio
An upper-class family is rocked by scandal when teenage son Jake receives an e-mail containing an amateur pornographic video from a female admirer. Not knowing how to react, he forwards the e-mail to a friend. When the video goes viral and becomes a prominent news story, Jake is suspended from school and the family becomes the focus of local gossip. Hillary Huber narrates with tremendous empathy for all the characters, conveying their emotions and point of view, and making listeners sympathize with the entire cast. Huber does not create voices per se, instead she simply changes the inflection of her voice to bring out the personality of each character: Jake has a slangy, insecure, whiny sound to his voice; mom Liz’s voice is warm and maternal, but also introspective and conflicted; father Richard is always strong and commanding—even when he feels inside that his world is falling apart. All the complexities and insecurities of the characters are present in Huber’s nuanced performance, making this a compelling and thought-provoking audio. A Harper hardcover. (Aug.)
Maria Russo
…riveting…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—is it worth leaving a perfectly good life to grab a chance for something more?…Schulman somehow makes all these characters lovable, even when their least attractive qualities are on display.
—The New York Times
Mary McGarry Morris
Schulman has managed to capture this bizarre of-the-moment tragedy in a novel that remains deeply humane and sensitive…This Beautiful Life is a powerful story of a good family in crisis. Schulman vividly portrays the circularity of events and the instantaneous connections of lives caught in a very real world wide web. How like the butterfly's wings when the mere tap of a key can unleash storms of such unimaginable consequence.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
In this sobering tale of how adolescent stupidity can have criminal and social repercussions, Schulman (A Day at the Beach) explores what happens when a privileged teen boy forwards to friends a sexually explicit video made for him by a classmate. Jake Bergamot, 15, has recently moved to New York City from Ithaca, N.Y., with his parents, Richard and Liz, and his kindergarten-aged sister, Coco. Life in Ithaca was easy and idyllic, but after Richard takes a job in the city, that all changes. Jake is enrolled at Wildwood, a New York City prep school where he makes a new circle of friends and attends wild parties, one of which leads to the video—later made by a girl at the party who Jake refuses to sleep with because, among other reasons, she's too young—that could determine the direction his young life will take. Jake is a good student and a nice kid, and his parents are rocked to their foundations by their son being snared in a child pornography scandal. The plot is ripe for salacious tabloid treatment, but Schulman sidesteps easy shock and hyperbole to turn out a provocative story of ethics and responsibilities in the ever-shifting digital age. (Aug.)
Library Journal
All's well with the Bergamot family, new to New York's Upper West Side—until son Jake receives a sexually explicit video from an eighth-grade admirer that in a moment of cockiness and confusion he sends to a friend. Soon it's viral, Jake is suspended from his private school, and the whole family starts tearing at the seams. Schulman's quietly thoughtful A Day at the Beach was one of those rare novels about 9/11 that didn't exploit the event, and I expect the same here. The first pages are sobering, elegant, and fluid.
People
“Schulman’s topical, unsettling new novel [is] set in Manhattan’s world of private-school privilege but chillingly relatable for parents anywhere…. Raising tough questions about child rearing, morality and the way the Internet both frees and imprisons, Schulman’s story resonates.”
The Oprah Magazine O
“A rich, engrossing, and surprisingly nuanced novel exploring timeless questions of guilt and responsiblity.”
People (3.5 out of 4 stars)
“Schulman’s topical, unsettling new novel [is] set in Manhattan’s world of private-school privilege but chillingly relatable for parents anywhere…. Raising tough questions about child rearing, morality and the way the Internet both frees and imprisons, Schulman’s story resonates.”
People (3 ½ out of 4 stars)
“Schulman’s topical, unsettling new novel [is] set in Manhattan’s world of private-school privilege but chillingly relatable for parents anywhere…. Raising tough questions about child rearing, morality and the way the Internet both frees and imprisons, Schulman’s story resonates.”
(3 1/2 out of 4 stars) - People Magazine
"Schulman’s topical, unsettling new novel [is] set in Manhattan’s world of private-school privilege but chillingly relatable for parents anywhere…. Raising tough questions about child rearing, morality and the way the Internet both frees and imprisons, Schulman’s story resonates."
Tom Perrotta
This Beautiful Life isn’t just an intimate look at family breaking down under intense pressure; it’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.”
Elizabeth Gilbert
“A 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.”
Jonathan Dee
“In 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 scandal’s outlines a mournful and affecting portrait of our brave new social world.”
Kate Christensen
“Helen Schulman’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 family…. Schulman takes on a controversial topic with depth, evenhandedness, and warmth. Spare and focused, This Beautiful Life packs a wallop.”
Hannah Gerson
“In another writer’s hands, it might come out as a cautionary tale, but Schulman is careful not to paint anyone as villain or victim.”
Jim Shepard
“A 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. It’s poignant about the fragility of even those homes that are seemingly invulnerably insulated by privilege and caring and vigilant parents.”
Jonathan Miles
“With psychological acuity and cinematic pacing, Helen Schulman takes a hypercontemporary nightmare…and parlays it into a wildly compelling novel about parenting, privilege, and the fragility of happiness…. This Beautiful Life is moving, disturbing, and grandly incisive.”
Jennifer Egan
“Helen Schulman is one of the most gifted writers of her generation.”

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781455114184
Publisher:
Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Publication date:
08/02/2011
Edition description:
Unabridged
Pages:
6
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 5.80(h) x 0.70(d)

Read an Excerpt

This Beautiful Life

A Novel
By Helen Schulman

Harper

Copyright © 2011 Helen Schulman
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780062024381


Chapter One

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.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman Copyright © 2011 by Helen Schulman. Excerpted by permission of Harper. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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What People are saying about this

Jennifer Egan
“Helen Schulman is one of the most gifted writers of her generation.”
Jonathan Dee
“In 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 scandal’s outlines a mournful and affecting portrait of our brave new social world.”
Jim Shepard
“A 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. It’s poignant about the fragility of even those homes that are seemingly invulnerably insulated by privilege and caring and vigilant parents.”
Tom Perrotta
This Beautiful Life isn’t just an intimate look at family breaking down under intense pressure; it’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.”
Elizabeth Gilbert
“A 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.”
Kate Christensen
“Helen Schulman’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 family…. Schulman takes on a controversial topic with depth, evenhandedness, and warmth. Spare and focused, This Beautiful Life packs a wallop.”
Mary McGarry Morris
“This Beautiful Life is as much a bracing novel as a timely cautionary tale…. Schulman has managed to capture this bizarre of-the-moment tragedy in a novel that remains deeply humane and sensitive…. This Beautiful Life is a powerful story of a good family in crisis.”
Maria Russo
“Riveting. . . . 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.”
Jonathan Miles
“With psychological acuity and cinematic pacing, Helen Schulman takes a hypercontemporary nightmare…and parlays it into a wildly compelling novel about parenting, privilege, and the fragility of happiness…. This Beautiful Life is moving, disturbing, and grandly incisive.”
Hannah Gerson
“In another writer’s hands, it might come out as a cautionary tale, but Schulman is careful not to paint anyone as villain or victim.”

Read More

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