An ideal family. Lizzie Bergamot is certain that despite her family’s lack of fortune that they’ve got it all and it’s only getting better by the minute. The Bergamot’s recent move to the big city was the result of a very lucrative job offer for her husband and it’s side effects could be seen everywhere. From the overnight Mommy-Daughter spa-esque treatments at the Plaza Hotel to the very prestigious schools for both of her children, Coco and Jake. It also meant new territory and potential hazards no one in the family had encountered before, but Lizzie never expected those hazards to be played out inside the walls of her own home. Least of all in the bedroom of her teenage son Jake. Suddenly the walls of their perfect life come crumbling down and the entire family is left with scars that may never heal.
This is by far one of my greatest fears. My son or daughter doing something so damaging that it alters their entire life just by clicking the mouse. People do things on the internet everyday that they’d never admit to, things they’d never do in a public place and unfortunately children & teenagers especially are even more prone to push the limits. It’s even more tantalizing to when it’s uncharted territory that can be incredibly intriguing to a curious and often naive young person. Unfortunately all it takes is one click, one photo or video forwarded to a friend, and suddenly your world is turned on it’s head.
That’s exactly what happened to Jake Bergamot when he received a video from a thirteen year old girl he knew from school. Once he’d forwarded it to a friend moments after receiving it the domino effect began and the lives of everyone involved were changed forever. Everyone from the girl who sent it, Daisy, to his little sister Coco, who wasn’t old enough to understand the video she accidentally discovered on her mother’s computer. I’m positive I’m not alone in my concern over this matter. Any parent I know who has children growing up today is aware of the risks surrounding computer use by the children in our lives. What was interesting about This Beautiful Life was reading how the situation played out and the ripple affect it had on nearly everyone in the book. It nearly destroys their family and in many ways that was hard to read, but it certainly gave me a greater understanding about what to do and not do in this particular circumstance; I only hope I never have to deal with it.
Overall I felt like This Beautiful Life was very well written and the opportunity to be a “fly on the wall” so to speak was an invaluable lesson. There were times during my reading though that I felt dragged a bit. Helen Schulman does explain in an interview with Brian Gesko of The Paris Review Daily that, “My characters are human, warts and all…”. Well, in many cases I felt like I simply didn’t need to know the every minute detail of her character’s lives. Yes, those things make them real, but in some cases it definitely slowed my reading. That being said, I still absolutely enjoyed the story overall and I’d be open to reading more by Schulman in the future.
This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman is the telling of a tragic situation that hopefully many families will be able to avoid in our technology laden world. As a parent it can be difficult to balance the need children growing up today have to be connected technologically speaking with the potential for danger that lurks a few mouse clicks away. In the case of Lizzie Bergamot and her son Jake there were so many things I would have done differently, but as a parent I also know that you simply do the very best you can and hope your children make the right choices. This Beautiful Life was an eye opening read that I think parents everywhere could benefit from reading and one I’d definitely recommend.
Originally reviewed and copyrighted at my site There's A Book