The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.

The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.

3.9 46
by Nichole Bernier
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

Before there were blogs, there were journals. And in them we’d write as we really were, not as we wanted to appear. But there comes a day when journals outlive us. And with them, our secrets.
 
   Summer vacation on Great Rock Island was supposed to be a restorative time for Kate, who’d lost her close friend Elizabeth in

See more details below

Overview

Before there were blogs, there were journals. And in them we’d write as we really were, not as we wanted to appear. But there comes a day when journals outlive us. And with them, our secrets.
 
   Summer vacation on Great Rock Island was supposed to be a restorative time for Kate, who’d lost her close friend Elizabeth in a sudden accident. But when she inherits a trunk of Elizabeth's journals, they reveal a woman far different than the cheerful wife and mother Kate thought she knew. 
   The complicated portrait of Elizabeth—her troubled upbringing, and her route to marriage and motherhood—makes Kate question not just their friendship, but her own deepest beliefs about loyalty and honesty at a period of uncertainty in her own marriage. 
   The more Kate reads, the more she learns the complicated truth of who Elizabeth really was, and rethinks her own choices as a wife, mother, and professional, and the legacy she herself would want to leave behind. When an unfamiliar man’s name appears in the pages, Kate realizes the extent of what she didn’t know about her friend, including where she was really going on the day she died. 
   Set in the anxious summer after the September 11th attacks, this story of two women—their friendship, their marriages, private ambitions and fears—considers the aspects of ourselves we show and those we conceal, and the repercussions of our choices.

“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 Maine

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
When Elizabeth dies in a plane crash a month before 9/11, her will designates her friend Kate as the recipient of her lifelong journals, in this tepid debut. Kate spends her family vacation during the summer of 2002 reading through Elizabeth's journals, discovering the truth about the woman she thought she had known. Elizabeth's history is full of secrets: a childhood accident, a decision to abandon her artistic studies to care for her mother, her relationship with her husband, and most curiously, the reason she was on that ill-fated August 2001 flight. Other than her time-appropriate anxieties about terrorism and loss, Kate is a pedestrian character, with quiet conflicts about her workaday marriage and thoughts of exchanging motherhood for a return to her career as a pastry chef. As a character, Elizabeth has more potential, but Kate's recaps of important events in Elizabeth's life, interspersed with brief passages from the diaries, feel journalistic and unfinished, like notes from a character study. Moments of beauty and depth of spirit will appeal to readers interested in secrets revealed, but the novel is slow and relies too heavily on introspection. Agent: Julie Barer. (June)
Library Journal
En route to an island beach house with her family in the summer of 2002, Kate stops to pick up her friend Elizabeth's journals from her widower, Dave. Elizabeth died in a plane crash a month before 9/11, and her will indicated that Kate should get her journals if anything happened to her. Kate spends the summer reading and becomes obsessed, both fascinated and sobered by the aspects of her life that Elizabeth kept hidden from her friends and even Dave. Kate is also consumed by the mystery of why Elizabeth was on the flight that took her life. As she reads, Kate reflects on her own marriage and life choices, as well as the paranoia about her family's safety she developed after 9/11. 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. VERDICT This literary novel should be a favorite of book groups and have broad appeal beyond.—Nancy H. Fontaine, Dartmouth Coll., Hanover, NH
Kirkus Reviews
Who was Kate's friend Elizabeth--a capable, cheerful and optimistic mother, or the troubled soul her diaries reveal? Bernier's debut repetitively probes the enigmatic life of the American wife. A cloud of regret hangs over this parallel-voiced examination of female roles as Bernier peels back the public faces of her two central characters to reveal anxiety and disappointment. Kate, a pastry chef and mother of two, used to be Elizabeth's neighbor in Connecticut until moving to Washington, D.C. After Elizabeth is killed in a plane crash, Kate learns that she has been left her friend's diaries and the request that she start reading them at the beginning. Perhaps they will explain Elizabeth's fateful decision to fly to California and her involvement with a man named Michael. Reading the journals, Kate learns of Elizabeth's guilt over her sister's death; and about her critical mother; her abandoned art career; her mixed feelings about her husband; her efforts to be good enough; her last choices. Kate, gripped by boundless fears for her family, constantly compares her friend's marriage to her own, which is solid enough but may now be changed by the whole experience. This nuanced portrait of marriage offers insight alongside somber reflections, but its landscape is obsessively interior and not very eventful.
The Washington Post
Why did Elizabeth embark on her last trip? Why do we keep secrets from those we love most? Is it possible for mothers and fathers to have it all—work and family? Bernier's excellent storytelling skills will keep you pondering long after the final page.
—Nancy Robertson
From the Publisher
“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...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

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307887801
Publisher:
Crown Publishing Group
Publication date:
06/05/2012
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
6.62(w) x 9.28(h) x 1.10(d)

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >