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This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman
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Oct 04, 11


Less skilled writers sometimes feel compelled to use sensational violence or wartime conflicts in the hopes that this will make them serious writers. But here Helen Schulman demonstates that an extremely talented author can make simple things, like dropping off your daughter to school, or your son forwarding an inappropriate e-mail, into fascinating, engrossing fiction. I expecially liked how the fallout from that inappropriate e-mail exposed the structure of how their family was supposed to work-- the wife sacrificing her career to raise children, the husband feeling that it is his responsibility to jump in and save everyone. It was fascinating to watch as the crisis shakes and perhaps destroys this dynamic. It is told in turn from the mother, the son, and the husband, and all pov's are fascinating, beautifully written. (Although the my least favroite was the husband.) Anyone who has spent time in Manhattan (and at Columbia in particular, where the husband is overseeing an expansion into Manhattanville) will laugh at the social structures illuminated here-- the wealthy, priveleged students trying to inherit their parent's success. I haven't read her other work (yet), but I think she's my new hero, up there with Jennifer Egan. Oh, and I think this book might be appropriate for those less interested in violence/sex/language and more about how relationships work within families. There are, however, two brief sexual encounters in the book.
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