This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman


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.


2 thoughts on “This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman

  1. a friend told me about this book, but she and i don’t always like the same titles so i was hesitant. now, with your recommendation, i think i’ll check it out. we are on spring break now, and i brought home eight 4th-6th grade books. i’m going to stick with that goal, but this beautiful life might be next after those books!

    • Hi Devin,
      We’re on vacation too – I hope you enjoy yours. I read This Beautiful Life as a “break” from reading books for children.
      As much as I love them, some times I need the company of other adults on the page!

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