Review: The Unfinished Works of Elizabeth D. by Nichole Bernier

The Unfinished Works of Elizabeth D. The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. by Nichole Bernier
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As a writer, I should be all about beautifully written books, and I am to a degree. I appreciate well-worded sentences and elegant descriptions. But, when it comes time to form an opinion of the overall story, pretty words rank low on my rating meter.

Synopsis: 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.

Nichole Bernier superbly created characters that could easily step off the pages and go about their lives in the real world. They all had characteristics – quirks, habits, thought processes – solely their own and very real.

I enjoyed reading The Unfinished Works of Elizabeth D. I remember thinking, even before I finished the first chapter, that Bernier writes beautifully. It wasn’t an easy read though. It took several days longer than my norm to finish.

There’s actually two stories going on and I found Elizabeth’s journey, told through her journals, to be the more interesting. Scenes where Kate became the focus felt slow and I wanted to hurry and get to the next journal entry. Somewhat like Kate did.

As with most literary works, the plot is secondary to the characters and their revelations of self and the world. While those revelations were interesting, they weren’t particularly profound.

I found myself fascinated by Elizabeth’s ability to conceal and it made me wonder how well we really know our friends. How much do we really share? This is a good book. I can’t say it’s fantastic or mind-blowing, but I can say it’s worth reading.

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