Chris Witkowski's Reviews > This Beautiful Life

This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman
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Sep 17, 11

Read in September, 2011

This is a terrific read, an intense, tightly written story about a young boy, Jake, who sets off a crisis for himself and his family when he innocently forwards a sexually explicit video he has received, unsolicited, from a 13 year old girl he met the previous night at an unchaperoned NYC party. The consequences of this naive, but totally understandable action, are devastating. Life as they know it is over for the Bergamots. The depiction of young Jake's adolescent angst and his feelings of self loathing are so sad and painful that I felt myself on the brink of tears throughout the entire reading.

The true strength of this novel is the author's ability to render such likable characters. We really care what happens to this family - they are basically good people, from the mother, Liz, who maybe loves her children a little too much and feels like a fish out of water in the big city, having moved there from Ithaca so her husband can have a chance at a great job, to Richard, the father who not only wants to succeed professionally, but wants to be the best provider and father and husband, to little Coco,the 6 year adopted Chinese girl with a spirit that would be a challenge for any parent to contain. But it's Jake who captures our emotions the most. He feels such guilt and remorse for his mistake that we honestly worry if he will emerge from this crisis. A short passage at the end of the novel, as Liz fast forwards to the future and muses over how she handled the crisis, gives us a glimpse of Jake's emotionally painful future. We can only imagine what is in store for him.

Very satisfying read.

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