You know those blurbs on the back cover of paperbacks that say: ” I stayed up all night to finish this book.” Or…”I read it straight through in one sitting.” Frankly, I’ve always been cynical about those reviews. I know there is poetic license at work and the author is just making a point about how compelling the book is. But, to be honest, I always read them and think: how did they get up and go to work the next day? Or…what’s wrong with me? Even when I love a book, I can usually put it down for a few hours.
Over the past few days, however, I came close to getting it – as much as I’m going to. I still slept. But…this week I read Helen Schulman’s novel This Beautiful Life and even with other reading to do and going to work, I was staying up late to finish this amazing and sad and thought provoking novel. In Schulman’s novel, a perfect (from all outward appearances) family confronts a crisis when Jake, the teenage son, forwards a sexually explicit video to a friend. As a result of Jake’s naivity, the family, including the six-year-old adopted daughter, faces life-changing and complicated consequences. The novel is about privilege and happiness and morality, topics that have been written about for thousands of years. But Schulman’s novel is like watching a train wreck. You can’t stop looking – and then reminding everyone you know to wear their seatbelt. It’s also beautifully written and asks so many good (and sometimes uncomfortable) questions.
I could now write one of those blurbs and honestly say that I couldn’t put the book down. I did put it down, but it has stayed with me from the first page.