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This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman
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Oct 22, 2011

it was amazing
Read in October, 2011

A beautifully descriptive writer - the details of her settings and characters feelings made the story more immediate and real to me. An upwardly mobile family is adjusting to life in Manhattan where Richard is pursuing his new executive planning position with a New York university when their 15 year-old son, Jake, receives a raunchy video email from a 13 year-old admirer that he unthinkly forwards to a friend. Within a day the video has gone viral, widely circulated across the internet and Jake is in trouble. As Jake and the Bergamot family try to deal with the ensuing unfavorable publicity, the family starts to unravel under the stress, especially revealing differences in life goals, personalities, and family and life styles between father Richard and mother Liz that undermine their ability to support each other and their family.

There are references to The Great Gatsby - Jake, like Jay Gatsby, is undone by a Daisy. While both Daisyes are rather self-absorbed, Gatsby is the victim of his obsession with his Daisy while Jake in many ways is ultimately the victim of his Daisy's affections. In both novels, however, the American dream of monetary success as the precursor for happiness in life and love, is ultimately undone.

I was drawn in - awed and appalled at how one lone stupid action, in an age where the internet can make every mistake universal overnight, could have such wide-spread and long-lasting repercussions; and at how easily a seemingly content family can be undone - how thin is the veneer of familial happiness.
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