This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman
Reviewed by Erin
WWKR. What Would Karen Read. My sister Karen is my go-to for what to read, and this Christmas what Karen was reading was This Beautiful Life. In the midst of the board-game-playing, whiskey-drinking, and family-bonding, she was reading this book. I was impressed (the holiday chaos with 18+ people under one roof is not a recipe for a quiet read), and I took note. I catapulted this book to the top of my list, and oh, what a happy girl I have been.
This Beautiful Life is beautiful, and strange, and so real that it hurts. Helen Schulman has created a taut live wire in this book, and there were times I had to pull my hand away. This book hit me where I live. And hard. I have a teen boy, and I saw his face (and mine) everywhere in these pages. As the book charted Jake’s fateful decision to forward an email and the destruction it inevitably wreaks as it goes viral, my heart squeezed and my stomach ached. This is powerful stuff Shulman is dishing out, but her sharply drawn characters make it palatable. Lizzie, the mom, is so real and honest that I wished more than once that I could invite her over for dinner. Like Lizzie, I pined for their old, simple life in Ithaca, NY and felt her keen sense of loss and failure. Her boy Jake was so familiar and likable that I kept wishing it were possible to go back and not send that darn email in the first place. Part of this book takes on the culture of privilege, but ultimately, this book shows us how close we all are to having it all go off the rails. It’s an easy, unforgettable read that makes you treasure your own beautiful life.