The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.: A Novel Hardcover – Jun 5 2012
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"Bernier’s excellent storytelling skills will keep you pondering long after the final page." --The Washingon Post
“Bernier masterfully eases open the doors that guard our deepest fears and, against a backdrop of a New England beach vacation, sweeps in fresh air and hope.” —Parade
“Thanks to incredibly realistic characters, this smart, bittersweet tale brilliantly captures what it means to be a mom, wife and friend.” —Family Circle
“I loved this bittersweet novel, which manages to be both a compelling mystery and a wise meditation on friendship, marriage and motherhood in an age of great anxiety. Bernier will have you thinking about her characters long after you've turned the final page.” —J. Courtney Sullivan, New York Times bestselling author of Commencement and Maine
“A smart, poignant novel about the bittersweet choices women make and the secrets they keep. This is one of those rare novels that's so real you forget it's written; I literally carried it around with me, and I missed the characters when I was done.” —Jenna Blum, New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Save Us and The Stormchasers
“Nichole Bernier writes as though she were born knowing how to do so. She understands the fragility of the human heart and also the enduring strength of even imperfect relationships. The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. is a gripping book with a delicate, tender core. You will read on to unravel a mystery but also, to be moved, page after page.” —Robin Black, author of If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This
"An absorbing, bittersweet novel that examines the vast grey area between protecting and deceiving the ones we love." —Vanessa Diffenbaugh, New York Times bestselling author of The Language of Flowers
“Written with exquisite grace, depth, and honesty, The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. explores decisions driven by motherhood and marriage. I was transfixed as Kate read the journals she’d inherited from Elizabeth, peeling back the layers of her friend’s life, and in the process grappling with her own choices and terrors. Women have secret lives—sometimes hidden in the corners of our minds, sometimes in dreams unrealized. One mark of friendship is when and whether these nightmares and ambitions can be revealed. This riveting novel fiercely captures this fulcrum of the public and private lives of American mothers.” —Randy Susan Meyers, international bestselling author of The Murderer’s Daughters
“Debut novelist Bernier’s thoughtful observations on friendship, identity, motherhood, work, and marriage wrap around the mystery of Elizabeth, whose journal writing enlivens the book and gives readers much to think about. This literary novel should be a favorite of book groups and have broad appeal beyond.” —Library Journal
“Moments of beauty and depth of spirit will appeal to readers interested in secrets revealed.” —Publishers Weekly
"This exquisite and honest portrait of friendship and motherhood unfurls a suspenseful plot whose jaw-dropping surprise ending is one that readers will be sure to discuss long after the book has been finished." --BookPage
"Bernier successfully explores how women manage to balance so much in their everyday life and the complicated emotions (guilt, frustration, fear) that go along with being a working mother...The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. is an important read for anyone who dares to ask just how well we really know our friends and neighbors, and what those discoveries mean about us." --BookPage
About the Author
NICHOLE BERNIER is a writer for magazines including Elle, Self, Health, Men’s Journal and Boston Magazine, and a 14-year contributing editor with Conde Nast Traveler, where she was previously on staff as the golf and ski editor and a columnist. She is a founder of the literary website BeyondTheMargins.com, and lives outside of Boston with her husband and five children.
Top Customer Reviews
(Only four stars, as I reserve five for books that I will read again!!!)
Kate Spencer is given a trunk filled with the diaries and journals that her late friend, Elizabeth, left for her as stated in her will. Kate takes them with her on Great Rock Island where she spends the summer with her husband Chris and their two young children. The diaries cover the life of Elizabeth from her sad childhood to present day, and Kate discovers things she never knew about her friend. The diaries help Kate re-evaluate her own life and make decisions about things she's been procrastinating.
Bernier's writing quickly drew me in. Initially, the heavy topics slowed down my reading as I dived in, and I found I could read only a few chapters at a time. Then about half-way through I was invested in the characters and finished fairly quickly. There were times when I was frustrated with Kate for not giving Chris a chance as a supporting partner. The story takes place shortly after the 911 terrorist attacks and because they live in Washington D.C. Kate feels unsafe. She's afraid to show Chris her vulnerability, her neediness and her fear for her family and for him when he travels. Reading the diaries made Kate realize she needed to take that risk to expose her true feelings so they could keep growing as a couple and cement their trust for one another while living at a time when trust was difficult.Read more ›
I alternated between finding this novel extremely depressing and hopeful and uplifting. These two women didn't really know each other at all - but how well do we ever really know someone? Our best friends? Husbands? Wives? And I found it really sad. To reveal our true selves takes courage and this novel follows one woman's struggles to cope not only with the loss of her best friend, but 9-11 which occurred a short time later. As she reads, Kate begins to realize how little she knew Elizabeth and when she begins questioning her own life the journals help her come to terms with the debilitating fear she keeps hidden and struggles with in private.
The idea of leaving journals behind is something I've struggled with personally, so I found the exploration of how to dispose of them fascinating. I've kept journals off and on since childhood and I certainly don't relish the thought of having anyone read them. The thought actually makes me nauseous and desperate to detonate them. But then again, maybe those closest to me would finally understand the real me, even if it wasn't what they wanted to hear.
Elizabeth D is a reminder that we are all complex, multi faceted people and that when we get comfortable with one side of a person, we may never look to see other sides or see how they may be struggling.Read more ›
Elizabeth has died a year earlier (at the age of 37, no less) and her family, and especially her best friend Kate, continue to idealize her as the perfect woman. It doesn't help that she died a month before September 11, 2001, in an unrelated plane crash, so the grief over her death becomes mixed in and intensified with the grief of the nation. When Kate learns that the task has fallen to her to read and sort through Elizabeth's journals--twenty-five years worth of them--she is faced with a very different image of her friend. It turns out Elizabeth had so many secrets that Kate starts to wonder if she ever really knew her at all.
Told in both diary excerpts and third person narrative,The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D is the sort of novel that women will pass around and discuss (I'm not saying men won't like it--I really don't know--but the book is truly about being a woman, being a wife and a mother, and the relationships between women and their female friends). At the very least, it's the sort of book that made me want to call my female friends and make sure they're okay. Really okay.
Disclaimer: I received a digital galley of this book free from the publisher from NetGalley. I was not obliged to write a favourable review, or even any review at all. The opinions expressed are strictly my own.