Synopses & Reviews
Part-time actress, full-time party girl Lorelei Branch isnt famous yet, but shes perfected a Hollywood lifestyle full of clubbing, fashion, and the latest juice cleanse. When Robin, her sister-in-law and agent, throws a plum job her way, Lorelei jumps at the chance and auditions to be the new girl on televisions hottest reality show, Flos Studio
Enter Colleen, Loreleis pill-popping mother, who wants nothing more than to see her daughter win the fame and glory she never had a chance to pursue herself. But Loreleis dream of becoming the next reality star is dashed when she loses the spot on Flos Studio to a stunning African woman. In an attempt to defend her daughter against what she calls a rigged contest, Colleen goes ballistic and delivers a racist rant on live television, sparking a national media frenzy. Lorelei flees the limelight, humiliated and broke, with her slacker boyfriend Don and heads for Reno where she begins to self-destruct.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Branch family starts to come apart at the seams. Colleen and her husband, Carl, are quietly drifting apart. Darren, Loreleis older half-brother, is stuck in Florida working on a contentious film set while his wife, Robin, continues the tedious regimen of fertility drugs meant to help them conceive a child. Desperate to bring the family together again and make things right, Colleen hatches a plan to stage an intervention for Lorelei on the reality show Real Happy Family. Soon the entire Branch family is entangled in a mission to bring the prodigal daughter back into the fold.
Will Lorelei ever forgive Colleen? Will Real Happy Family air their most sensational intervention yet? All roads lead to a seedy Reno hotel room, where a reality TV crew is waiting.
“This entertaining debut novel unsparingly takes on damaged family ecosystems and the show-business machine. Widger has created a delicate suspension bridge out of her characters relationships to one another and the world, and throughout the course of the novel, she steadily, craftily adds weight, making for compulsive reading.” —Kirkus Reviews
"In this sobering tale of how adolescent stupidity can have criminal and social repercussions, Schulman (A Day at the Beach) explores what happens when a privileged teen boy forwards to friends a sexually explicit video made for him by a classmate. Jake Bergamot, 15, has recently moved to New York City from Ithaca, N.Y., with his parents, Richard and Liz, and his kindergarten-aged sister, Coco. Life in Ithaca was easy and idyllic, but after Richard takes a job in the city, that all changes. Jake is enrolled at Wildwood, a New York City prep school where he makes a new circle of friends and attends wild parties, one of which leads to the video later made by a girl at the party who Jake refuses to sleep with because, among other reasons, she's too young that could determine the direction his young life will take. Jake is a good student and a nice kid, and his parents are rocked to their foundations by their son being snared in a child pornography scandal. The plot is ripe for salacious tabloid treatment, but Schulman sidesteps easy shock and hyperbole to turn out a provocative story of ethics and responsibilities in the ever-shifting digital age. (Aug.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“A gripping, potent, and blisteringly well-written story of family, dilemma, and consequence. While the setting is thoroughly modern, the drama feels as ancient and inevitable as a Greek myth. I read this book with white-knuckled urgency, and finished it in tears. Helen Schulman is an absolutely brilliant novelist.” Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Committed and Eat, Pray, Love
“Helen Schulman is one of the most gifted writers of her generation.” Jennifer Egan, author of A Visit from the Good Squad
“A rich, engrossing, and surprisingly nuanced novel exploring timeless questions of guilt and responsiblity.” O, The Oprah Magazine
“With psychological acuity and cinematic pacing, Helen Schulman takes a hypercontemporary nightmare…and parlays it into a wildly compelling novel about parenting, privilege, and the fragility of happiness…. This Beautiful Life is moving, disturbing, and grandly incisive.” Jonathan Miles, author of Dear American Airlines
“A harrowing and moving account of just how much twenty-first-century technology has magnified the scope of the kind of imbecilities in which teenagers excel. Its poignant about the fragility of even those homes that are seemingly invulnerably insulated by privilege and caring and vigilant parents.” Jim Shepard, author of Like You'd Understand, Anyway
“Helen Schulmans trenchant social observations and precise, lucid writing are brought to bear on the timely story of a crisis in the life of the Bergamot family…. Schulman takes on a controversial topic with depth, evenhandedness, and warmth. Spare and focused, This Beautiful Life packs a wallop.” Kate Christensen, author of The Epicure's Lament and The Great Man
“In the hands of a lesser writer, this might have been simply a book about a scandal; Helen Schulman, though, has a long enough view, and a large enough heart, to have found in that scandals outlines a mournful and affecting portrait of our brave new social world.” Jonathan Dee, Author of The Privileges
“This Beautiful Life isnt just an intimate look at family breaking down under intense pressure; its also a sharp and unsparing indictment of a culture in search of scapegoats. In this timely and provocative novel, Helen Schulman maps out the contours of a contemporary American nightmare.” Tom Perrotta, author of The Leftovers and Little Children
“Riveting. . . . As much as this book fiercely inhabits our shared online reality, it operates most powerfully on a deeper level, posing an enduring question about American values.” Maria Russo, New York Times Book Review
“This Beautiful Life is as much a bracing novel as a timely cautionary tale…. Schulman has managed to capture this bizarre of-the-moment tragedy in a novel that remains deeply humane and sensitive…. This Beautiful Life is a powerful story of a good family in crisis.” Mary McGarry Morris, Washington Post
“Schulmans topical, unsettling new novel [is] set in Manhattans world of private-school privilege but chillingly relatable for parents anywhere…. Raising tough questions about child rearing, morality and the way the Internet both frees and imprisons, Schulmans story resonates.” People (3 ½ out of 4 stars)
“In another writers hands, it might come out as a cautionary tale, but Schulman is careful not to paint anyone as villain or victim.” Hannah Gerson, New York Observer
When the Bergamots move from a comfortable upstate college town to New York City, theyre not quite sure how theyll adapt—or what to make of the strange new world of well-to-do Manhattan. Soon, though, Richard is consumed by his executive role at a large New York university, and Liz, who has traded in her academic career to oversee the lives of their children, is hectically ferrying young Coco around town.
Fifteen-year-old Jake is gratefully taken into the fold by a group of friends at Wildwood, an elite private school.
But the upper-class cocoon in which they have enveloped themselves is ripped apart when Jake wakes up one morning after an unchaperoned party and finds an email in his in-box from an eighth-grade admirer. Attached is a sexually explicit video she has made for him. Shocked, stunned, maybe a little proud, and scared—a jumble of adolescent emotion—he forwards the video to a friend, who then forwards it to a friend. Within hours, its gone viral, all over the school, the city, the world.
The ensuing scandal threatens to shatter the Bergamots sense of security and identity, and, ultimately, their happiness. They are a good family faced with bad choices, and how they choose to react, individually and at one anothers behest, places everything they hold dear in jeopardy.
This Beautiful Life is a devastating exploration of the blurring boundaries of privacy and the fragility of self, a clear-eyed portrait of modern life that will have readers debating their assumptions about family, morality, and the sacrifices and choices we make in the name of love.
is a gripping, potent and blisteringly well-written story offamily, dilemma, and consequence. . . . I read this book with white-knuckledurgency, and I finished it in tears. Helen Schulman is an absolutely brilliantnovelist." —Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love
Theevents of a single night shatter one familys sense of security and identity inthis provocative and deeply affecting domestic drama from Helen Schulman, theacclaimed author of A Day at the Beach and Out of Time. In thetradition of Lionel Shriver, Sue Miller, and Laura Moriarty, Schulman crafts abrilliantly observed portrait of parenting and modern life, cunningly exploringour most deeply-held convictions and revealing the enduring strengths thatemerge in the face of crisis.
Fans of Vanessa Diffenbaugh and Adriana Trigiani will savor this edgy yet moving debut novel about a dysfunctional family joining forces in an unconventional way to bring a missing daughter back to their fold.
About the Author
Helen Schulman is the author of the novels A Day at the Beach, P.S., The Revisionist, and Out of Time, as well as the short story collection Not a Free Show. An associate professor of writing at The New School, she lives in New York City.