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The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.: A Novel Paperback – March 12, 2013
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—The Washingon Post
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“Thanks to incredibly realistic characters, this smart, bittersweet tale brilliantly captures what it means to be a mom, wife and friend.”
“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.”
“Moments of beauty and depth of spirit will appeal to readers interested in secrets revealed.”
“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...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.”
About the Author
NICHOLE BERNIER has written for publications including Psychology Today, Salon, Elle, Self, Health, and Men’s Journal. A longtime contributing editor with Conde Nast Traveler, she lives outside Boston with her husband and five children.
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The character development was rich and just about the time you think you thought you knew what was coming next, you were surprised at the direction that the story took. You felt like you were eavesdropping into Elizabeth's life when reading her journal pages, yet the more you read the more confused you were about her past.
The ending wasn't what I had surmised as I was reading the book, so I was pleasantly surprised with learning what was going on with Elizabeth prior to her death. I had much more sinister thoughts so it was nice to see that the storyline hadn't gone down that road.
A great book, the "journal" reading was interesting and not at all boring like it could have been and the writing was superb.
~ from The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.
Without knowing why, or even how, it happens, a person can fill a void in our lives so quickly and settle into our being so fully that, surely, they must know us as well as we know ourselves. Even better. I have such a friend, who can tell at first glance (or at first long-distance "hello" over the phone) if I'm lying or telling the truth when I answer the question, "How are you?" Yet, even through such deep connections, how well can we really know another person?
This question ripples throughout Nichole Bernier's debut novel, The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D., as one woman is bequeathed the journals of her good friend.
In reading the journals of Elizabeth Martin, Kate discovers a side to her friend she hadn't known or expected. The truth of Elizabeth's marriage, her friendship with Kate, and her life ambitions unfolds, and, with that truth, so does Kate's own pain and understanding of her relationships and dreams. In those discoveries, Kate finds strength to face her fears and embrace what's genuine. This book speaks to the anxiety we so often hold about the future and to the relief we find in finally letting go.
The literary elements are delightful. There is a seamless interweaving of flashback. I particularly loved the way Kate digressed, so illustrative of a multi-tasking woman. The author's use of imagery (particularly sounds), simile and metaphor made this reader stop and re-read many times. "The girl was curled horizontally across the top of the pillow, catlike, and her purr of a snore quieted as Kate pivoted her back under the covers."
This book will make you question and re-evaluate your relationships as well as yourself. It spurs a depth of perception, an introspective in the reader. Who do we really know? Does everyone have this inner self not shown to others? Is that the real self or is the self we portray to the world the real one? It certainly illustrates the multi-faceted tapestry we weave in our own minds.
And best of all in this reader's mind is the story utterly captures the delights, desires, longings, fears and ultimately satisfaction of women, motherhood and marriage.
I was completely engrossed in this book about Elizabeth D.'s life and her journals. It is beautifully written--not a book to race through. It digs into emotional territory and makes you think about people and what they choose to present on the outside...what shapes them and haunts them...what makes them struggle to be the person they think they "should" be.
From the author:
"What if a mother left behind hints of a more complex and mysterious person than her loved ones thought they'd known? The shimmer for me was the incomplete obit, the discrepancy between the public and the private self. We all die with bits of our story untold."
As she reads the journals, she discovers that she really had only tapped the surface of knowing her friend. Things she had taken for granted were not at all what they seemed to be.As she delves deeper into the journals,she takes a second look at recent developments in her own marriage and choices she has made.
I had some trouble at times relating to these women. But I definitely identified more with Elizabeth than Kate.But then again, looking beyond the superficial, I did develop some empathy for her.And this book kept me thinking long after I had finished it.