I kept waiting and waiting for "This Beautiful Life" to reach its peak. The story hinges on an event that is described within the first few pages of the book and there is very little suspense after that.
The family - Richard, Liz, Jake & Coco - described in this book just don't seem to react too much. Jake, after forwarding a pornographic video, is suspended from school. He stays home during his suspension along with his stay at home mother and his father, taking "family time". They hardly seem to speak of the incident, neither parent seems want to deal with the event & the consequences, and they seem to just be in a holding pattern for most of the book.
Liz, more than anyone, seems bogged down by everything both in and missing from her life. "It was heaven really to be alone in that cramped apartment. And yet, as she had felt almost every day since they'd moved in, when she came back from dropping Coco off at school, or yoga, or errands, or coffee, Liz took one look at her messy home and was overwhelmed by how much there was to do and how little she wanted to do it. Finding that first step into an amorphous day, a day without bones, was always the hardest."
I do like that phrase, though - "a day without bones".
Underneath the uncertain lethargy of most of the characters, there is a message about way the role of parents has changed in this modern world. "(Richard's dad)...didn't focus on him, he didn't coddle him, he didn't help him with his homework or take his emotional temperature three times a day or do any of the things Richard and Lizzie do now, along with eating and breathing, as a way of life. Dad loved his boys within reason. Dad's was a reasonable, conditional love, the condition being that Richard kept his nose clean, that he always did his best, that he conducted himself with honor."
But in general, the story just kind of meanders along, until finally, just near the end, something happens that slaps the family in the face and wakes them from their stupor.
I suppose what kept me at a distance in this book was description of the emotions the characters were feeling...we were told they felt things...but those feelings stayed firmly on the page & didn't spark any reaction on my part.
It seems as if the story of "This Beautiful Life" was almost over before it began.