Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.

How well does one really know others? And if the person in question kept a journal would the self portrait shock those closest to her or him?  These are the thoughts that ricocheted in my head while reading The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. by Nichole Bernier.    

The novel, set in the recent past (2002), opens with the heroine, Kate Spenser, inheriting the journals of her recently deceased best friend Elizabeth Martin.  Elizabeth died in a plane crash a month before September 11, 2001, leaving behind a grieving husband and three young children.  In an unusual choice Elizabeth willed her journals not to her husband, but to Kate to handle as she deemed fit.  Elizabeth was a lifelong writer who left behind a trunk full of notebooks containing her innermost thoughts.  As the story progresses the Elizabeth revealed in the journals was not the one that Kate knew.  Kate is haunted by what she missed and how to handle the journals.  By the novel’s conclusion, however, Kate not only has a better grasp on who Elizabeth was, but also into her own life.

The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. is a beautifully written and absorbing novel that explores the choices and sacrifices that women make between being true to themselves and raising a family.  As Bernier writes:  “You could not take a single day or night for granted.  Within every hour, every plane ride, or routine doctor’s appointment was the spark of possibility, the thing that would become your undoing.  And how you left things just before the final moment – that was how they would remain.”  Part of the story details the crucial life moments of Elizabeth and how she became the woman she was before her death.  The other half explores Kate’s need to make an important life choice.  The novel does not end in a tidy conclusion, but rather is opened ended just like real life.

The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. is a remarkable debut by first time novelist Nichole Bernier!

Review based on courtesy copy sent by the publisher. 


  1. I love the sound of this one --- understanding someone through their writing.

  2. I think it sounds really good! Nice review.

  3. I really, really want to read this one!

  4. I keep hearing great things about this book. I need to check it out!

  5. Sounds a bit too sad for me in the end

  6. I'll be adding this one to my wish list. This one sounds fantastic!