Jamie's Reviews > This Beautiful Life

This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman
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's review
Sep 22, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: literary
Read from September 15 to 22, 2011

What an easy, well-written, HORRIFYING book. Schulman's subject - a family on the brink of a catastrophe - is so standard in current literary fiction; what isn't so standard is the truly modern (in a terrible way) idea that the catastrophe in question is a young girl sending the teenage son of the family a homemade sex video, and the repercussions that it causes.

It's so horrifying because of how easy it is. How easy it is to imagine it happening a thousand times over, even though this book is set in 2003 - which means it's even easier now.

Oh, what am I saying? This book is not about the plot. The plot is described pretty much in its entirety in reviews (especially the Time Book Review), but what I loved about this book was Schulman's descriptions. Some of her similes and metaphors are quite clearly overwrought, but some lines and paragraphs are AMAZING:

"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."

"Audrey's hair was cut so that it hung straight and glossy and curled under just at the tips of her earlobes, like two commas, strangely sexual, tiny clefts..."

"She looked like a Chinese character from the back, perched upon it that way, the slim lines of her sleek black hair, her all-black outfit, the black jeans and the tight black T-shirt, all precise little brush strokes."

(Describing Jake's broad shoulders on his lanky frame) "Like a wire frame hanger from which the rest of his lean body simply hung."

And my favorite paragraph in the entire book, the last paragraph of a chapter focusing on the father of the family, who is incredibly focused and successful and who has had to deal with the fallout from the video sent to his son. He is beaten down, but instead of Schulman telling us that explicitly, she instead writes this perfectly evocative paragraph:

"Then Richard loosens his tie and walks into the bedroom, alone. He hands up his jacket in the closet. He sits on the end of the bed. Soon he'll untie his shoes, insert the wooden shoe trees, and put them away in his closet. Soon he'll take off his socks."

To end a chapter with that seems so easy. Out of context, it might seem uneventful. When you're in the book, though; it's a moment. It's perfect. It made me fall in the love with this book.


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Reading Progress

09/15/2011 page 52
22.0% "Started this at Andrew's store, hoping to finish soon."

Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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message 1: by Stephanie (new) - added it

Stephanie This review really makes me want to read this book. I will add it to the list.

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