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The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.

The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.

3.9 49
by Nichole Bernier

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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


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. 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. 

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.

Now with Extra Libris material, including a reader’s guide and bonus content

Editorial Reviews

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.”

“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.” 

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
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.

Product Details

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Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet 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 Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.: A Novel 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 49 reviews.
constantreaderRM More than 1 year ago
Nichole Bernier reminds one (in finely-wrought, clear, solid, turn-the-page prose) that in motherhood, in friendship, in marriage, there are no easy answers. None of us have one side--we are instead faceted prisms, showing a side here, a side there--and when we are lucky, we find people who we can show almost every version of ourselves. Bernier catches the rarity of those moments--and explores a grief rarely looked at; the grief of losing a friend. Wonderful book that I highly recommend.
debralmartin More than 1 year ago
What if everything you knew about your best friend was a lie? This is the situation that Kate Spenser finds herself when her best friend, Elizabeth Martin, dies in a tragic plane crash leaving behind a husband and 3 small children. Agonizing over the loss of her friend, Kate is surprised when she receives a letter from Elizabeth's lawyer. Elizabeth has left Kate all of her journals with a simple statement of "Start at the beginning." The story follows two story lines, Elizabeth's journal entries and Kate's impressions and reactions to them. There was so much about Elizabeth that Kate never knew and she begins to re-examine her own life and marriage. The author does a phenomenal job of inviting the reader into both Kate's thoughts and Elizabeth's writing. I was totally absorbed in the story and as I read further, was more and more surprised at how rich and deep the story had become. It makes you think about your own life and how people would remember you if you died unexpectantly. "The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D" is a stunning debut novel for Nichole Bernier.The characters of Kate and Elizabeth are both complicated and well-fleshed out as they struggle with their own identities of career woman vs. stay-at-home mom. Fans of women's fiction will thoroughly enjoy this story. Highly Recommended.
mollydcampbell More than 1 year ago
Nichole Bernier is a gifted writer. In this wonderfully plotted book, she explores disease, loss, marriage, fidelity, terrorism, motherhood and friendship without missing a beat. She is a gifted story teller, and with grace and deftness she writes of what one friend learns about herself and her own world after the loss of a friend she thought she knew. I am a writer, and I will recommend this book to any writer who wants to learn how to create page-turning plots.
j-fay More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put this book down, carrying it with me in the car to read in school pick up lines, to doctor's offices, anywhere I could read a few more lines. In the unfolding mystery of the journals, the true story of a life is told, one that even her best friend didn't truly appreciate, one that offers insights we all can benefit from. Highly recommended!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
We all have friends and we all wonder about their private lives. What are they thinking about? What are they hiding? This is a book that lets you live out the fantasy of knowing what REALLY going on in someone else's heart. And it's smart and a very absorbing read. I highly recommend.
M-gal More than 1 year ago
In Nichole Bernier's debut novel, "The Unfinshed Work of Eluzabet D," I see mirror images of my own life, my thoughts on motherhood and friendship, and my uncertainty of both the past and the future. Bernier has an almost lyrical way of stringing words together to form sentences that make the reader experience the story with all senses. I am carried this book with me for days, reading at every opportunity. I highly reccomend this one as an unputdownable!
jotsandtittles More than 1 year ago
Nichole Bernier hits it out of the park with this beautifully written novel about friends, wives, mother's daughters, secrets and loss. Weaving a captivating story that can't help but touch the hearts of each and every woman who reads it, she examines what makes us tick, breaks our hearts and keeps us living! Absolutely riveting in it's style and stunning in exposing the vulnerability in us all.
CozyLittleBookJournal More than 1 year ago
Did anyone see To Gillian on her 37th Birthday? That movie where Peter Gallagher still mourns his dead wife (played by Michelle Pfeiffer, who has looked 37 for about three decades now--I'd mourn her too) two years after her death? No, me neither. But I always imagined it was something like this book. Kind of sentimental, kind of sad, but mostly about how we hold on to our impression of a person even when the real person is dead and gone. 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.
FloLC More than 1 year ago
The Unfinished Work is "I don't want to go to bed until I read a little more" material. Bernier plucks emotional chords ranging from the yearning for the dreams we left undone to the fear of living in a post 9 11 world. Her work reminds me of Anita Shreve and the writing is as good as the story. I highly recommend this book!
bluestockingMA More than 1 year ago
My husband sometimes slips and calls my book group my playgroup. It makes me furious! Playgroups are for babies. Book groups are for smart readers who like to share thoughts on books. Totally different! Yet, in a way, he isn't all wrong. Let's face it playgroups are really more for the mothers than the babies. A playgroup is where the characters of Nichole Bernier's debut novel meet. When Kate meets Elizabeth, she thinks Elizabeth is one of those "perfect" mothers who is in love with baby, husband, and life. Yet, when Elizabeth dies suddenly and mysteriously wills her journals to Kate, Kate gets a very different picture of the woman she thought she knew. I think this is a book for this generation. Bernier has crafted a beautifully written and often heart wrenching novel that explores the complex topic of identity. What defines who we are? Career? Family? Choices? Fate? This book is sure to incite a lively discussion at your next book group meeting.
InsomniacKC More than 1 year ago
I loved so many things about this book: 1) the central point: you think you know someone, but you don't 2.) friendships, marriages and parenting experiences are complex and woven through with ambivalence, uncertainties and difficult choices, large and small 3) the small moments and turns of life are beautifully drawn throughout this story. Looking forward to Nichole Bernier's next book!
EdM99 More than 1 year ago
From the first paragraph's description of the George Washington Bridge, I found myself completely absorbed, intrigued, and enriched by this beautiful story of friendship, loss, and the journey to understand both. Ms. Bernier is skilled at capturing emotional resonance, the significance of small moments, and the necessity of vulnerability in friendship, marriage, and life. I loved this novel and am grateful that I now know of this wonderful new author. I look forward to Ms. Bernier's next work.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
nbaker1234 More than 1 year ago
I'll admit it -- I love to journal. They are a release, a conversation with yourself. I journaled daily when my son was deployed for 15 months in Iraq and then another 12 months in Afghanistan. It was important for me to know that he knew that he was utmost in our thoughts and prayers. I journal thoughts, stories and poems. Because of my passion for the written word, I am always elated when I run across a book dealing with letters or journals from the past. Elizabeth D has been killed in a plane crash. Her husband and 3 children are devastated and her best friend, Kate, from the old neighborhood is in shock. Elizabeth and Kate spent much time shopping together, swapping stories, engaging in Mother's Clubs, babysitting for one another, etc. Though they no longer lived across the street from one another, the connection is still there -- especially for Kate. Elizabeth D loved to journal. She has been writing in journals since her adolescent years. She has a trunk filled with her life's stories. Her husband respects her privacy and the privacy of her journals. However, when she accidentally dies, he finds she has willed all of her journals to be given to her friend, Kate, who can then decide what to do with them. He is suddenly faced with a feeling of betrayal that he will never know what words are inscribed within them and anger that his wife did not entrust them to him. Kate is confused as to her friends request and afraid of what she might find inside. Sometimes we have to ask ourselves just how well we know other people. Do we truly know our friends, family, co-workers, even our spouse or are they merely showing us the sides of them they want us to see? And if we are true friends -- true listeners, then why the need to keep feelings and experiences hidden? Is it deceit? Mere omission? Fear of criticism or rejection? Or are some things just better off left unsaid? Journals can oftentimes be a conversation with yourself. An opportunity to divulge your feelings without the opinions of others. It can be a cleansing experience to relieve stress or fears without burdening others. Perhaps there are times when there is much more people would like to say in a conversation if others would just remain quiet and listen. Elizabeth D's life may be over, but her story lives on in her journals. This is a beautiful story of how we, far too often, find ourselves attached to the surface of a person without realizing that it is the inner makings and life experiences of that individual that brought beauty and character to their surface.
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hungry-mom More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was ok, but not great. The writing was fantastic, however, the characters were a bit of a bore. I didn't like either of the husband's and both the female characters seemed like moms that belong to a playgroup I would want nothing to do with. I kept waiting for something good to happen, it was just depressing from beginning to end. I felt let down when I finished the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not wild about this book. Plot too predictable. Took many words to get to the morale of the story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very engrossing read about the nature of people, how we choose to present ourselves to others versus what or who we truly are inside, and whether it is possible to truly know anyone else. Well-written, it rang very true to me. Highly recommended.
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